THE RIDES, GAMES, and general merriment of Portland's annual Rose Festival also bring some unwelcome side effects: higher levels of drunkenness and crime, from civilians and sailors alike.
In 2006, 2007, and 2008, combined arrests downtown for assault, disorderly conduct, and liquor violations reached a yearlong high in May or June. In those years, disorderly conduct arrests were highest during the Rose Festival when compared to crime stats for the six weeks surrounding the festival.
For five days during the festival, ships from the Navy, Coast Guard, Army Corps of Engineers, and Canadian Maritime Forces dock at the Waterfront as part of Fleet Week. The Navy and Coast Guard employ their own unarmed security officers, known as shore patrol, to protect the sailors on land—largely by making sure they don't get too drunk.
"Shore patrol helps us have a presence," says Portland Police Bureau spokesperson Mary Wheat. "They help us deal with the military folks [who become intoxicated], get them to Hooper Detox Center, and back on the boat."
This is a change from the typical clients of Hooper Detox operators Central City Concern, whose bylaws say it's intended "to serve low and moderate income people's need for community development."
In an email, Navy spokesperson Anthony Popp wrote that shore patrol works with local police as well as management of bars and restaurants to "discreetly intervene in a potentially detrimental situation before it escalates into something more visible."
But the crime spike isn't due to just drunken sailors. Combine thousands of tourists with increased police presence, and it's no surprise the Rose Festival charts as the year's highest time for crime.
"Most crime is opportunistic," says Sgt. Greg Stewart with the Portland Police Bureau. "Even with the same number of criminals, when you increase the number of people in an area there are more opportunities."
Wheat agrees: "You have a lot more people downtown during the Rose Festival, a lot more alcohol."
Rose Festival policing involves around 30 officers on foot at the waterfront, more patrols by the Street Crimes Unit in Old Town, and visits from the Hotspot Enforcement Action Team (which follows waves of crime, often gang related, and was recently involved in the police shooting of Keaton Otis).
Meanwhile, the feds keep an eye on the river while the fleet is docked, severely restricting all boat traffic and requiring heavily armed escorts for vessels passing by the Navy ships.
"Ever since 9/11, Homeland Security has put heavy restrictions on the river," says Rich Jarvis, a Rose Festival spokesperson. "They don't like to talk about it."