Wednesday, March 3, 2021
March 3, 2021

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Portland businesses are navigating wave of window smashing and burglaries with little help from city

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Hanh Truong arrived at Fujiyama Sushi Bar & Grill early Jan. 28 to find the floor of the restaurant covered with broken glass.

Security footage showed someone driving up to the Southeast 82nd Avenue sushi bar before hurling a rock through the window. The same person threw another rock through the window of the nail salon next door before driving away, said Truong, the store manager at Fujiyama.

For a restaurant already navigating the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, the damage dealt another severe blow.

Truong was forced to close the restaurant for half a day to clean up the damage and throw out any food that might have been contaminated by broken glass. She said replacing the window will cost $1,000, a bill the restaurant will pay out of pocket because its deductible is too high to make an insurance claim worthwhile.

“We’re staying afloat, but this will definitely put a dent in things,” Truong said. “It’s very stressful.”

The Portland Police Bureau says its staffing isn’t adequate to respond to a sharp rise in burglaries and vandalism across the city. Some victims say a portion of the attacks appear racially motivated.

A city fund established last year to help finance repairs is out of money and there are no immediate plans to replenish it, leaving businesses to scramble and open their own wallets to repair the damage.

“The city needs to step up and figure out how to help businesses,” said Ahmed Abraibesh, the CEO of local shoe chain Clogs-N-More, which suffered expensive vandalism and a separate burglary in the past few months.

LIMITED SUPPORT

The Portland Police Bureau doesn’t track window smashing as its own crime, but businesses across Portland and local glass repair companies say there has been a notable rise over the last year, creating added stress for small business owners trying to survive the pandemic.

Window smashing crimes can fall under several different categories, including property damage, vandalism, criminal mischief and burglaries. Portland has seen a spike in reports of both vandalism and burglaries since the start of the coronavirus pandemic last March.

Burglaries across the city were up nearly 32%, while vandalism was up almost 43% from March through December 2020 as compared to the same time period the year prior.

Portland has offered few solutions to prevent the damage, nor offered businesses the financial support many need to take down boards and move on.

The city created a $550,000 fund last fall to help businesses repair broken windows and other damage. The money went to approximately 150 businesses across the city before the funds were exhausted, according to Jim Middaugh, a spokesman for Mayor Ted Wheeler.

But there isn’t any similar financial support available from the city for businesses that have been targeted recently.

“We don’t have any brand-new initiatives,” Middaugh said. “But there’s ongoing conversations about how we can provide additional support to struggling businesses and that would include those that have suffered vandalism.”

In mid-January, Tim Becker, a spokesman for Wheeler’s office, said that police were in the process of increasing the number of patrol officers, with the hope of having 365 available within the next few months.

A RACIST MOTIVE?

Businesses say they’ve continued to be targeted this year, even as protests that consumed the city last summer, and sometimes led to rampant vandalism, have died down.

While some business owners have reported being burglarized after having their windows broken, others have said the damage to their storefronts appeared random. In other cases, window smashing has felt targeted.

In the last week of January, more than a dozen businesses in the Jade District, most of them Asian-owned, had rocks thrown through their windows or were otherwise targeted, according to the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon.

The damage comes at a time when reports of anti-Asian incidents both locally and in other parts of the country are on the rise. That pandemic-related racism stretches back to the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Allie Yee, a spokesperson for the network. In Oregon, the Department of Justice took 77 reports of bias or hate against Asian Americans between March and January, with the vast majority of those reports coming from Multnomah County.

“I hate to say it was racism, but I can’t help to think like that because of the dozen other businesses that were hit,” said Truong, the store manager at the Fujiyama sushi restaurant that was hit in January. “It felt like it was very intentional – driving up, throwing a rock through the window and driving away.”

The Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon is dipping into its own pool of funding, which includes COVID-19 relief money from the city of Portland and Multnomah County, to try to help Jade District businesses repair the damage. Truong said Fujiyama is trying to get more information from the group about what support could be available.

REPEATED DAMAGE

One month after Clogs-N-More opened a new location in the Montavilla neighborhood last October, someone hurled a rock through the front door window and broke the door frame, but didn’t take much from the store. Abraibesh, the small chain’s CEO, paid several thousand dollars to repair the door and hoped the business could move on from the incident.

But during the first weekend of February, several businesses along Southeast Stark Street in the Montavilla neighborhood had their windows broken, including Clogs-N-More. This time the harm was significant.

Not only did burglars throw a rock through the store’s window, Abraibesh said they stole about 100 pairs of shoes, forcing the store to temporarily close. Abraibesh said it will cost him around $5,000 to repair the door and replace the stolen inventory, around the same cost as his deductible, so he will pay the bill out of pocket.

While he is planning on keeping his Montavilla location for now, Abraibesh said he will install an iron security gate, a security measure that he is seeing more and more businesses in Portland take. If the store is targeted again, he said they will likely have to close.

“When you get to the point where you get hit every two months and you lose all this money and you have to (temporarily) close the store, it’s just like, ‘How can you make it?'” Abraibesh said. “Those people, they don’t think. They think if you have a business, you’re rich. They don’t know that it’s a struggle from one day to the other, you can barely pay the rent.”

The burglary at Clogs-N-More occurred on the same weekend that a 28-year-old man was arrested in the Lloyd District after allegedly using a hammer to break the windows of at least five businesses and a car along a 12-block stretch on Northeast Broadway.

Pure Salon and Spa was one of the businesses that had its window broken. The incident came just a week after someone used a crowbar to get through the back door of the salon before breaking the front desk and several terrariums. A few months earlier, a person kicked in the store’s front door, which cost the salon about $600 to repair, according to owner Molly Zollner.

Zollner said she had plywood put up over her window after the most recent incident, but that the property manager would pay for the repairs. She said getting the boards down as soon as possible is a priority for the business, so it can provide a welcoming atmosphere for its customers.

But Zollner is also opting to keep her doors locked during business hours, only unlocking them for customers who knock.

“It’s so hard to build a business,” Zollner said. “I put my soul into it. It’s very violating to have someone just willy-nilly destroy what you are trying to do.”

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