By Marilyn Deutsch
PORTLAND, Oregon (KPTV) — Neighbors are speaking out after an illegal street racing event blocked a northeast Portland intersection for about three hours Sunday night.
Tire marks, and even tire threads, can be seen all over the intersection of Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Northeast Columbia Boulevard. The intersection is ringed by fast food restaurants and a motel called the Portland Inn, which also provides housing to low-income residents.
Michael Gilbert, who lives at the Portland Inn, said the street racing event went on from around 9 p.m. to about midnight. According to him, police came out and just watched.
“Traffic was backed up all the way down that way and all the way down that way,” Gilbert explained to FOX 12.
Portland police said they received calls about vehicles spinning and blocking off the intersection, even fireworks going off. Police told FOX 12 there was one reported crash but no one was injured and that “due to the congestion and crowd, police and medical did not enter.”
FOX 12 asked police whether they should have intervened. They said if there was an immediate threat they would have.
FOX 12 also received the following response from police: “On duty personnel have to weigh the circumstances across the city as they consider how to respond. Part of that consideration includes available resources. Incidents involving immediate threat to life safety are a priority but they have to consider available resources so any action they may take can be done safely. Those are difficult decisions to have to make.”
Gilbert said he understands that police have limited resources and said he doesn’t know what the solution is. One of his neighbors at the motel, who says he’s been the victim of violence in the neighborhood, says the police just don’t want to help his low-income neighborhood.
“Don’t say you’re strapped when it’s actually the location and the area. When we have someone waving a gun down here, we call the cops and they don’t show up. It’s not cause you’re strapped, it’s because you don’t want to deal with this area of town,” Todd Kepus said.
Both men say they felt trapped in their homes last night by those who took over the streets. “They shoot off fireworks, and I can’t understand if its fireworks or gunshots, so we just stay in our room,” said Gilbert.
For months now, those who live and work in north and northeast Portland have asked the city to do something about the problem of illegal street racing. Businesses say some of their late night and overnight employees can’t leave work without fear of being hit or killed by street racers.
Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office said it plans to approach City Council with a draft proposal of an ordinance to address street racing this month. The mayor’s office said it’s still reviewing and finalizing the proposal.
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