Welcome to the Comment of the Week, where we highlight good comments in order to inspire more of them. You can help us choose our next one by replying with “comment of the week” to any comment you think deserves recognition. Please note: These selections are not endorsements.
Last week’s article about a witness who was nearly hit by an alleged car thief who drove recklessly on the Springwater Corridor path engendered a lively discussion in the comments section. Several commenters wanted to know how someone with such a long rap sheet could be caught yet again, only to be released while awaiting trial. Isn’t someone with this history of run-ins with the law considered dangerous? One reader decided to try to get to the bottom of it, and he did the unthinkable.
Joseph E. jumped out of the bowl!
He sent an email to the DA’s office “expressing my concern about the release of the suspect too soon,” and he got a response.
But Joseph E. didn’t stop after receiving a response, no, he sent followup questions — and the DA’s office responded to them too! The DA’s office answers (which came from former executive director of The Street Trust, Jillian Detweiler who now works for DA Mike Schmidt) are informative, and serve to move the conversation forward, but they are not the final word on this complicated issue. If you are interested in delving further, two topical BikePortland interviews from a couple of years ago can be found at the in the related posts section at the bottom of this article.
Here is the exchange between Joseph E. and the DA’s office:
I wrote the District Attorney an email expressing my concern about the release of the suspect to soon and they responded:
Thank you for your email. The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office share your concern for the very dangerous behavior Lucas Lujan is alleged to have committed. Pretrial detention is determined by the courts, not the district attorney. I am attaching the Presiding Judge Order that governs pretrial release in Multnomah County. It’s a complex matrix and I share it to demonstrate the complexity. Our records indicate Lujan is not being held in jail, but he is being supervised rather than released on his own recognizance. MCDA will do what it can to bring this case to a speedy resolution. However, the defendant will be represented and the defense may not view a speedy resolution as being in the defendant’s best interest. That, along with a case backlog, can drag out the process. Again, thanks for your email and concern for preserving the safety of folks using the Springwater Corridor. Regards, Jillian Detweiler (she/her) Executive Assistant to Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt
This was the attached document from Judge Judith Matarazzo:
My email reply to the above:
1) What does it mean in this case that “he is being supervised rather than released on his own recognizance.”
Does Mr L. have a known address? Were his prior attempts to evade officers not considered by the DA and Judge?
2) Did the DA write anything in opposition to the Judge’s order, or was your office in agreement with the guidelines?
3) The current standards do not appear to be working to prevent repeat vehicle thefts. Can the policy be changed by the judge or the DA, or is a change in the law required?
The DA office response:
1) Pretrial supervision is provided by: https://www.multco.us/dcj-adult/specialized-programs/pretrial-services-program-psp2) The Presiding Judge has the authority to determine pretrial detention standards. It was not a negotiation with the DA. 3) There is likely some room for the Presiding Judge to modify the order but significant change probably would require a change in laws and the state and U.S. constitution. Jillian Detweiler
Thank you for taking it to the real world, Joseph E. You can find Joseph E.’s comment and the rest of the discussion under the original post.
I feel for DA Schmidt. I have no way of knowing if he’s a good leader, but leading the DA’s office in a time where there is both a prosecutor and public defender shortage has got to be just a constant headache.
DA Schmidt will, like Hardesty, lose his next race due to the medias framing of his job rather than the reality. The amount of people who think the DA sets bail conditions or sets sentencing guidelines is far higher than it should be for a nation that has back to back to back law procedural dramas every weeknight for the last 30 years.
The one and only thing that will make an impact on crime in Multnomah County is a total camping ban. Portland is the real life Big Rock Candy Mountain, there’s no rules, what’s not attractive about Portland to someone who just wants to get high and steal stuff to feed their habit? It’s the perfect place if you want to be anti-social because we have absolutely zero expectations of people living on the street. We have so little expectations for them, that even as bad as things are, we have Portland area state reps trying to make legal to set up a shanty town on any piece of public property (HB3501).
Portland is a destination for criminals who don’t mind living on the street. We are inundated with crime committed by people who just weren’t here even a couple of years ago. We are enablers of bad behavior and until that changes, badly behaving people are going to be attracted to our city like a moth to a flame. We don’t have enough jails and prisons to handle the amount of crime in Portland.
I agree with most of what you say, but it feels like you’re doing right here the very thing you described about people’s misconceptions at the top.
We have expectations of people living on the street. All the things we complain about are currently already illegal and can be prosecuted. The DA isn’t stopping it, the laws aren’t either. The problem is a combination of cops not doing things they’re supposed to and lack of prosecutors and defenders to actually carry out any enforcement. Add to that we don’t really have anything in place for dealing with people living on the street (treatment, actual housing, etc), and the end result is what we have now.
Make no mistake, I think it is entirely a political failure of our leaders and anyone like Wheeler pushing for more official shanty towns instead of addressing the problems. Seeing tents everywhere isn’t something any “progressive” type people actually wants, they absolutely represent a failure. I think a lot of the time, people mischaracterize resistance to things like camp sweeps as “progressives love camping”, and that’s just not true. But the way to deal with the camping should entail more than what is usually suggested (all carceral, all punitive).
I don’t know what to do about the “moth to a flame” problem. If some other states have horrible draconian treatment of people, and our mild-ish weather and less draconian state looks more attractive, I don’t agree that the solution is we need to start getting more draconian. I don’t think it needs to come to that, because as I said most of the stuff everyone actually complains about is already illegal and could be dealt with in some way. We need more public defenders and prosecutors, we need more treatment options, housing, and a bunch of other things. If those things all existed I think there would be a lot less resistance to kicking people out of their tents on the side of the road now. The problem is what we do (or did) instead is occasionally destroy the meager living situations people have with no real solution.
Tent Camping is legal.
Meth and Fentanyl are legal.
The Police are not allowed to arrest anyone for either of those so I don’t think this is exactly a policing problem or a lack of defenders problem. They are not breaking any city laws.
That’s not really true
“The measure eliminates criminal penalties for possession of specified quantities of controlled substances by adults and juveniles involving: heroin (1 gram or less), cocaine (2 grams or less), methamphetamine (2 grams or less), MDMA (less than 1 gram or 5 pills), LSD (less than 40 user units), psilocybin (less than 12”
Selling any drugs is still illegal as is possessing hard drugs of any substantial amount. I’m guessing literally every single person at the open-air fent market downtown that the police allowed to exist for months was exceeding these amounts in multiple ways. The police could have stepped in at any time.
Measure 110 is another example of ‘death from misinformation’.
If the police stepped into these open air fentanyl markets without the city government and mayor demanding it, they would be vilified in this city so that is kind of a straw man and most people who read this blog would think so. Measuring drug use by grams is not exactly what the police should be doing.
It was a bad measure that has not lived up to what voters thought they were passing and should be repealed.
Tent camping should be banned and the city attorney can fight whatever lawsuit is filed.
Beaverton and Gresham both banned tent camping. No one sued.
I’m not sure what this means, the police are part of the city and its government…
No one of any import is ‘vilifying’ the police for breaking up an open air fent market. That’s, in the nicest way, just excusing away their lack of effort and inability to take action.
Further, the Portland Police have shown time and time again that they couldn’t care less about what the people of Portland think about them. It’s laughable that potential public outcry would stop them from doing anything.
It’s a good measure that is working in literally every other city in the state. I encourage you to get out of Portland for a bit. Eugene has never been more vibrant with a brand new farmers market.
Considering PPB doesn’t bother to respond to crimes with actual victims, it’s hard to believe misdemeanor drug crimes are going to be a game changer.
Gresham and Beaverton are under Boise v Martin just like everyone else. It has nothing to do with the City of Portland being worried about being sued. There are very clear rules from Martin. The City of Portland wants the campers to come here and live on the street. The scene you see in your everyday life is what they wanted.
Agree, and I’d like to add that it’s also laughable to think anyone who is happy with the police breaking up that fent market would have instead “vilified” the police if it wasn’t for the words of Ted Wheeler. Who is this constituency who is vehemently anti cop but really gives any crap about what Ted Wheeler thinks?
When Beaverton and Gresham ban tent camping, where do you think the people living in tents go? It doesn’t do anything to help people get off the street. It merely pushes them somewhere else. Frankly I think we can do better as a society than that.
I know, allowing tent camping is working really well isn’t it?
I don’t know where people in Beaverton went and I doubt you know either. They might not be sleeping in mud and garbage.
So where did they go? There aren’t enough shelter beds. Rent is too high. How exactly do camping bans do anything except push people into even more marginal areas?
I think the back and forth on this topic is done.
We all know your position. That sleeping outdoors in tents smoking meth and blocking sidewalks is the option you like best.
Besides that option, why exactly just philosophically should anyone “provide” free housing to anyone?
We have struggling working poor who actually need help paying rent and keeping food on the table.
Feel free to keep commenting about about keeping the status quo.
No answer to my question(s), just a bunch of irrelevant strawman arguments. Interesting.
Regarding “free housing”, wait until you find out how much jails actually cost.
Actually, at least when this was reported, there were:
But you are right in the sense that simply prohibiting camping won’t work. The only possible short term solution I see is to establish places where people are allowed to camp, then we can prohibit it outside those areas.*
*Unless you wanted to restrict short-term rentals, which would free up a bunch of small housing units in the core of the city overnight, but that’s the kind of crazy thing you’d only contemplate in a true housing emergency.
The option is not jail or tents.
We had a lot of homeless people 10 years ago and there was no tent camping allowed. Sleeping outside without shelter is brutal so they went to shelters.
We need more shelters to transition people but they will absolutely not go into them if a massive tarped tent with stolen propane heaters inside are the other option which is the case now.
This city just won’t try real options like using the Expo center and parking garages and places that taxpayers own now to provide temporary shelters until people can be triaged and helped transition.
We can be a lot more creative than tents or jail.
I wish KGW would make up their minds about which narrative they’re trying to peddle. Literally the day before that story ran, KGW reported that the number of unhoused people in the metro area vastly outstripped the number of available shelter beds:
“which narrative they’re trying to peddle”
Why can’t those things be true? There are plenty of empty shelter beds and also more people sleeping outside then would fit in those beds.
The point being that hundreds of people sleeping outside could sleep in a shelter if they so chose.
Which is not the same as having enough shelter beds.
Not exactly. If Gresham wants to ensure all 80 people camping in its downtown have a shelter bed available, and there are 120 beds available, then there are enough for everyone, even if there isn’t capacity for all those camping on the I-205 bike path.
You asked earlier:
There probably were enough shelter beds.
No idea where those numbers are coming from. Anyway, I was talking about Beaverton, not Gresham. There is not enough available shelter for the existing metro area unhoused population, leaving aside the many reasons why unhoused people would want to avoid homeless shelters.
Neither of these statements are true. It may seem like that because the police refuse to do their jobs but it’s not true. It’s not legal to punish people for sleeping outside when there isn’t enough shelter available for them but if we actually created space for them to go to we could enforce a camping ban. Small amounts of drug possession is decriminalized it’s not legal. Police are supposed to issue civil citations for drug possession and enforce the myriad of other laws around open drug use. They could confiscate the drugs, issue a citation and arrest people for other crimes. They’re just refusing to do so.
If you want the police to walk into camps and make arrests for open drug use, I am for it. I think the current laws are pretty hard to enforce but if you want them arrested and charged and imprisoned or fined, that is fine with me.
Most people agree with you.
Health and housing are county/state issues, so the fault for these issues being neglected does not lie with Wheeler. Kafoury and Brown had plenty of time to tackle these issues, and did nothing. Time will tell if Vega-Pederson and Kotek will do any better.
Let’s just make things up to support our reactionary “law and order” politics.
I’ve always been a fan of the expression “reality has a well-known liberal bias”. In this case, it doesn’t.
This is HB3501 referred to by cc-rider and sponsored by Representatives Chaichi (D) and representative K Pham (D)
Do the public spaces include the sidewalks in front of their residences?
Just asking because I don’t see any solution to the problem at all.
The root cause right now in Portland for a lot people is Meth and Fentanyl, not sure how many studies are required to determine that.
(a) Many persons in Oregon have experienced homelessness as a result of economic
hardship, a shortage of safe and affordable housing, the inability to obtain gainful employ- ment and a disintegrating social safety net system; and
(b) Decriminalization of rest allows local governments to redirect resources from local law enforcement activities to activities that address the root causes of homelessness and poverty.
(2) It is declared to be the public policy of Oregon to guarantee persons experiencing homelessness participation in the social and economic life of this state, remunerative em- ployment, use of and free movement within public spaces, participation in and receipt of the benefits of the services, programs and activities of state government and local governments and housing accommodations of the person’s choice, without discrimination.
Yeah this article describes HB 3501. I don’t know but guess Schmidt would back something like this.
That sounds like the creation of a new class of citizen, and I think that sucks. Allowing people to fester in tents and shanties is not humane. These people need treatment. Eugene has a pretty good model. IT is a small hut village (I think an apartment building/SRO’s would be more efficient) BUT- contrary to Portland’s camps- they provide drug and mental health services and it is explicitly short-term. They don’t put a time limit on it, but they have a high success rate of getting people stabilized and into permanent housing. I cannot understand people who defend living in a tent for occupying public spaces as a desired or acceptable outcome. We need to have no tolerance for this and set much higher expectations for people.
Recent report about how Portland’s approach is basically enabling people and “loving them to death”. Super counter-productive
That story is just one guy’s biased opinion based on his personal experience. As a drug counselor, he also has a pretty big conflict of interest in how governments decide to spend money on the homelessness issue. Who exactly is saying that people living in tents because they have nowhere else to go is a “desired … outcome”?
Nobody wants people living in tents. That’s not anybody’s desired outcome. But usually the people complaining the loudest about it only want to ban camping and the story ends there. They don’t care what happens to those people, and that’s what the problem is.
I don’t know much about that Opportunity Village in Eugene, but if it works, of course that’s something we should try here.
Since all the comments on this article (so far) don’t address the email exchange, I will. In short, it isn’t up to the DA. But the DA did move forward with prosecution; isn’t that what folks want him to do in this case?
What I want is for the DA to prosecute after someone steals, I don’t know, 5 cars, which might have prevented this entire episode. It’s too late now, of course, but the DA shouldn’t wait for a headline case before prosecuting a habitual criminal.
I know it’s hard to believe, but there was a time when stealing a car was treated as a crime.
Yes, but that doesn’t fit cleanly into the “DA Schmidt, Hardesty, and (somehow?) Eudaly caused all the crime and homelessness problems we see today and we must prostrate outselves to the police and say we’re sorry can you please save us now?” narrative.
I don’t know where people got the idea that the DA has nearly omnipotent power to decide what laws to enforce and is choosing to vindictively allow all the problems people complain about today. This very clear and satisfactory email exchange explains completely why this person was not held in prison and why he was out in the first place. The solution to those problems don’t include replacing the DA who didn’t cause them and can’t solve them.
The exchange did not clarify why the first five car thefts were not prosecuted.
But regardless, It is pretty clear that Schmidt can’t solve the problems, and I think it’s very likely that we’re going to find out if someone else can.