In this week's stellar issue of the Mercury, I examined whether Portland's Drug Impact Area's will be doomed by city budget cuts.
City Council opted not to continue funding a deputy district attorney dedicated to the program in this year's budget. The county, which has been willing to backfill some of the city's cuts, is apparently not budging on this one. So it falls to Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill to decide whether he'll use existing resources to continue staffing what was a city-initiated project.
A quick rundown: The DIAs are used to keep drug offenders out of the city's narcotics hotspots. Depending on the substance they're caught with, people are ordered to stay out of certain areas— Old Town, downtown, the Lloyd District—as a condition of probation. Businesses love it.
Anyway, I was unable to get the most recent tally of exclusions by press time. It came through today, though. Since their inception roughly two years ago, the impact areas have resulted in 1,047 exclusions, according to the DA's office.
That's not to say 1,047 individuals have been excluded. According to Deputy District Attorney Shawn Overstreet—the guy who, depending on Underhill's decision, could be snatched from DIA duty in coming days—some offenders have multiple exclusions. One person has five.
Still, the number reflects how much the tool has been used in its two years.
Other figures [PDF] the DA's office provided aren't as fresh—they're current as of December 31—but show nearly one third of the county's drug distribution and possession cases from June 2011 to December 2012 originated in one of the drug impact areas. In that same period, police made 113 arrests for violations of orders to steer clear of an impact area. Nearly 55 percent of those arrested were Black.
Race has been a touchy subject in the impact areas. The program's predecessor, Drug Exclusion Zones, were discontinued in 2007 amid criticism they unfairly targeted minorities. But while the DA's report does a good job breaking down the criminal cases issued by race, it doesn't go the extra step to break down exclusions.