Law enforcement cracking down on suppliers amid Portland’s 90-day fentanyl emergency

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Multnomah County leaders are hearing how law enforcement is combating the fentanyl crisis — specifically, cracking down on suppliers — amid the 90-day emergency declaration.

A hot spot bust in downtown Portland, which led to eight drug-related arrests Friday, was one of the areas of focus for law enforcement in this effort. They employed some interesting tactics that might appeal to bookworms.

Both the Portland Police Bureau and Oregon State Police holed up in the Multnomah County Central Library after it closed in order to watch dealers sell fentanyl and other illicit drugs. In addition to the eight arrests, authorities also seized more than half a pound of fentanyl in both powder and pill form. They also seized cocaine and more than $2,000 in cash that night.

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The unified command has been looking into the central library as a hot spot since the bottle returns at the nearby Southwest Jefferson Street Safeway and Plaid Pantry, just a few blocks away, were closed

Portland police estimate that last year, 90% of the narcotics team’s time was spent responding to overdoses as opposed to missions seizing drugs and targeting suppliers. This year, they said it’s in part thanks to community partnerships that the narcotics team’s duties are now roughly 50/50, with half being overdose responses and the other half being missions targeting suppliers.

Police said the change in focus has meant 23 pounds of fentanyl seized so far this year, more than all of 2023.

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“It’s effective in bringing us together, it’s helping us identify who we are, what services are available and the other thing is that it has identified gaps,” said Robert King, a PPB aide to Chief Bob Day. “This is the benefit of being able to get in the granularity on a daily basis on the challenge we face.”

Multnomah County Commissioner Sharon Meieran questioned the effectiveness of busts like this, saying it seems like “we’re cleaning up a tiny area, we leave the area, and everything bounces back to the way it was.”

Commissioners Meieran, Julia Brim-Edwards and Lori Stegmann all asked about drug efforts in East Multnomah County, pointing to the dashboard launched last week showing East Portland and Gresham as having some of the levels of overdose response in the county.

As part of the 90-day fentanyl emergency, the tri-government unified command released an online dashboard showing overdose and first responder statistics. Another dashboard will launch later this month focusing on the law enforcement side, such as showing what police have seized and people that have been contacted by outreach and where.

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