Downtown community questions safety as crime becomes more visible


Kate Had

The owner of Westside Market, JP Chevalier, recently helped a man who had been shot.

According to the 2022 Release of FBI Uniform Crime Reports for Oregon, violent crime in Portland between 2021 and 2022 dropped by 10.6%. However, many who live or work in downtown Portland have recently felt the impacts of crime more strongly.

JP Chevalier is the owner of Westside Market, a convenience store near Lincoln. He recently helped a man who had been shot near his store. 

“A couple of days ago, somebody came from a Plaid Pantry located on Southwest 11th and Jefferson,” he said. 

Chevalier described treating the man with compression while waiting for the police to arrive. 

“I’m glad that I was able to help him out. I’m not taking any credit, but [he] needed some help,”  said Chevalier. “So I was responding.”

As a primary location for Lincoln students to buy snacks, Chevalier feels strongly about ensuring students’ safety in Westside. 

“That’s your little place to hang out. So that’s why I want to protect it,” he said. 

The small size of his store allows him to see anyone who comes in and gives him oversight of the store, which he thinks helps lower crime rates. 

Large stores like the REI in the Pearl District of Portland don’t have the same advantages as small stores with known clientele. 

REI’s downtown location is closing after almost 20 years. In an email to REI members they stated that “the safety of our employees, members and customers is always our number one priority. In recent years, Portland has been dealing with increased crime in our neighborhood and beyond.”

The store will be closing in early 2024.

On April 10, Coava Coffee Roasters, a cafe less than a mile from Lincoln, announced the closure of their downtown location. In a Facebook post, they stated that they would be permanently closing their downtown location on April 13. 

The cafe cited the intense violence and crime as the primary reason for their closure.

“The team members at this cafe have been on the front line enduring extreme violence and criminal activity on an almost daily basis for the last few years–  crime and violence that is only increasing in frequency and severity. From theft, to physical displays of violence, threats of harm, break-ins, window smashing and repeated traumatic in-cafe incidents where both staff and patrons feel unsafe,” the statement read. 

After bringing in as many resources as they could – doubling up on shifts, locking one entrance, de-escalation training, hazard pay and heightened management oversight – it became clear to the business that a lack of safety was not improving fast enough for them to stay open. 

“We cannot continue operation here as we cannot ensure the safety of our team and customers. Our neighboring businesses have seen it, too – and we’ve watched them close one by one over the past few years. Sadly, we now join them,” Coava Roasters said in their statement. 

Lincoln junior Sarah Faik, who lives a couple of blocks away from Lincoln, has noticed more crime in the area. In previous years, gun violence felt like a distant reality to Faik – something discussed in school that didn’t impact her. Recently, gun violence has become much closer to home for her.

“I don’t see [a crime scene] every week, but it’s still very surprising and shocking to me,” said Faik. “I’ll get scared the day after and refuse to walk to school. After, it just rolls off of my mind because it’s so normalized in our society now that we’re just like, ‘what can we do?’” 

Faik tries to avoid thinking about the increased threat of violence in the area.

“I don’t think about it constantly, because if I did, it would freak me out a lot more,” she said. “I’d be like, ‘oh my god, I can’t even walk to school anymore.’ So I don’t like to think about it in that aspect.”