Needles and garbage surge in Portland neighborhoods

Neighbor Rick Donaldson counts the number of needles in a storm drain at the corner of Southeast 12th and Oak Street in the Buckman neighborhood while KATU reporter Catherine Van looks on. (KATU Photo)

Everyday there’s something new to see and to worry about on Southeast 12th and Oak Street in the Buckman neighborhood.

“You can't walk anywhere in this neighborhood without seeing caps and needles, people shooting heroine right in front of me or my kid, always worried about my dog at the dog park -- if he's going to step on a needle,” said Rick Donaldson, a neighbor.

This corner is one of the worst-hit spots in the neighborhood. It's about three blocks from Buckman Elementary School where Donaldson’s daughter goes to school.

“She notices it. She asked me about it. I'd say she's seen people shoot drugs with a needle at least three or four times,” he said.

Donaldson says he's made several complaints, but nothing changes.

Cleanup groups are getting overwhelmed with reports.

The city hires nonprofit groups, like Clean and Safe, to clean up the mess. Spokesperson Jay McIntyre says they get at least 50 reports every day. Crews try to get to each report within 24 hours, but the mess comes right back a few days later.

“We don't make people move. We don’t take people's property. We clean up any garbage related to homeless camps, or needles, or human waste,” said McIntyre.

Used needles are a growing problem in Portland. Last year crews found 45,000 needles citywide.

The best way to get it cleaned up safely is to make a report. The city has an app called PDX Reporter that alert crews like McIntyre’s.

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