Rotting crack ‘zombies’, record murders & sex sold for $20 in squalid tents – the city that turned a blind eye to drugs

Rotting crack ‘zombies’, record murders & sex sold for $20 in squalid tents – the city that turned a blind eye to drugs

ZOMBIE-EYED and writhing on the streets, a groaning man collapses on the pavements of Portland in Oregon — but passers-by barely give him a glance.

They have grown used to the sight of bedraggled addicts who huddle in sleeping bags, sending clouds of smoke from crystal meth into the winter air, among a sea of tents where sex workers carry out their trade under the watchful eyes of pimps.

The US city of Portland has turned into a squalid, dirty and dangerous place after drugs were decriminalised in 2021Rupert Thorpe

Heroin, cocaine, crystal meth and Fentanyl were all legalised under what was known as Measure 110.Rupert Thorpe

Pimps get women hooked on Fentanyl and then control them as sex workers selling services for as little as $20Rupert Thorpe

Once a hipster paradise that prompted cable satire Portlandia, which told of residents obsessing about barista-made coffee and bike share schemes, this liberal north east coast city now looks more like a nightmare dystopia.

That is because two years ago Portland decriminalised all drugs — including heroin, cocaine, crystal meth and Fentanyl, under what was known as Measure 110.

Possessing small quantities of these deadly substances no longer results in arrest — even though it is illegal to drink alcohol on the streets. The effect has been devastating.

It is estimated that the number of deaths from overdoses there have risen 28 per cent in a year.

The state is now the worst in the country for young people dying from drugs.

In Multnomah County, which includes Portland, there were almost 500 drug-related deaths last year. In 2019 it was 200.

The number of murders in the city reached record highs in 2022 too, with victims gunned down in the streets and shots even fired into a hospital’s A&E department.

Some businesses have closed for good due to the number of violent thefts.

Now the state governor, Tina Kotek, is calling for drug-taking to be banned from the city’s streets.

But local campaigners want to take it further — and ditch the decriminalisation experiment.

‘It’s a death sentence’

Angela Todd, 49, who showed The Sun around Portland’s Chinatown area, says: “Decriminalisation doesn’t work.

The people were sold it as a way to solve problems and it hasn’t happened. It hasn’t been able to cope with the nuclear explosion that has been Fentanyl, P2P Meth and synthetic PCP.

“Instead of making people responsible for their drug use it has enabled it and all the problems such as crime, murder and burglaries.

“Smoking Fentanyl is allowed on the street but not drinking alcohol. This is madness.”

The shocking scenes are a grim warning to Britain, which faces an influx of synthetic opioids such as Fentanyl in the coming years, according to drugs tsars.

It was also revealed this year that our Government’s drug advisers privately recommended decriminalising personal drug use, calls echoed by the SNP over the summer in Scotland, which has the highest drug-related death rate in Europe.

Desperate locals in Portland have urged politicians here not to replicate their experiment.

Drug gangs from South America now control the supply on the streets of Portland

Known as the City of Roses, due to the flowers which bloom in the area, the main thing growing in Portland at the moment is violence.

There were 101 murders last year, exceeding the 92 in 2021 and far worse than the previous record of 70 in 1987.

Locals point to turf wars between drug dealers as the major cause.

South American cartels control most of the city’s drug supply and teenagers use electric scooters to make deliveries.

Angela, who runs the PDX Real news service in Portland with her partner Jeff Church, 53, says: “You take your life in your hands walking these streets.

“All the homeless have a weapon. The streets are run like a prison.”

One homeless Fentanyl addict tells us how he had been attacked just a couple of days earlier.

Kai lives on the streets of downtown Portland and says he does not see a way outRupert Thorpe

Kai Latterellis, 47, who started taking the painkiller after a motorbike accident, says: “It happens every few days. I’ve known people die. I don’t think there’s a way off the streets. This is where I will die.”

The synthetic opioid he is hooked on killed more than 107,000 in the US last year.

Local addicts tell how they keep taking the drug, which is up to 40 times more potent than heroin, even after it nearly kills them.

Many carry Narcan, a substance used to reverse the effects of a drug overdose — if they are lucky.

Ronnie Eubanks, homeless for more than 30 years, points out the street corners and doorways where he has overdosed on Fentanyl.

The 64-year-old says: “I’ve been out of it there, here, on Pacific, on Flanders. Narcan brought me back every time. I’ve known 15 people die. People close to me, too.

“The streets is a death sentence, it’s just a question of time.”

Portland, with its 2.5million population, has some of the most expensive property on the West Coast and is also said to have more strip clubs per head than anywhere else in the country.

Its citizens voted to decriminalise hard drugs in 2020 in a public ballot. Measure 110 then came into force by February 2021.

Locals were told addicts would be given treatment rather than sent to prison. But rehab clinics and homeless help centres have been unable to keep up with the explosion in substance abuse.

Tim Desper, 45, a director at Portland Rescue Mission, highlights an absurdity of the state laws.

He explains: “If someone smokes Fentanyl and overdoses they are ten minutes from dying. If we can get to them with Narcan they can survive. It’s a miracle, really.

“But legally we can’t stop that person smoking Fentanyl again 20 minutes after they’ve recovered.

Cautionary tale

“We can ask them to go to recovery, we can’t make them and they — and let’s remember they’re addicts — have no obligation to. The law needs to change.”

Another effect of letting heavy drug use spiral out of control is the rise in sex workers.

In the city centre young women are selling their bodies for as little as £16.

Ex-cop turned support worker Spencer, 49, who doesn’t reveal his surname, says: “Pimps traffic girls from around the country. Girls in their 20s who were in care. They get them hooked on Fentanyl then they’re under the pimps’ control.

“They’re hired out at $20 a time, maybe less. There’s lots of tents around with just a few dirty blankets inside where they conduct their business.”

Spencer has run the Love One Another outreach programme for the past 18 months and has helped 800 people get off the streets.

He has seen addicts use a state-funded debit card to buy goods which they then sell for cash to get their hands on killer substances.

Spencer adds: “Crime is of course what funds most of the drugs but homeless people are also entitled to a debit card which they can use to buy food, which they sell to get drugs.

“Auto thefts are a huge issue, too. Cars are stripped regularly for things like catalytic converters.”

Cafe Owner Robert Jung says the 110 law should be scrapped immediatelyRupert Thorpe

Shop owners are tired of cleaning up the mess caused by Measure 110. Robert Jung, 39, owner of the Monte Rossa cafe, has an unenviable start to the day.

He says: “Every day I clear out the s**t and p*** from the doorway. Now it’s routine. The 110 law is what created all the problems and now should be repealed.”

Others have spent huge sums on extra security to deter the thieves. Elizabeth Nye is executive director of the Lansu Chinese Garden.

Until a £40,000 fence was recently installed it was costing £16,000 a month for security guards.

She says: “We’re here to show what’s still possible in this community. It would be easy to give up. But we have families coming here and when you see kids walking along these streets, you know there is hope for the future.”

The decision by Governor Kotek to ask the police to arrest people seen openly taking drugs will certainly be welcome.

She has also promised to step up raids on suspected dealers. But those fighting the drug epidemic think the city serves as a cautionary tale.

Eric Bauer, 66, chief executive of the Portland Rescue Mission, warns Britain not to make the same mistake.

He concludes: “Decriminalisation hasn’t worked because there is no accountability. There has to be accountability for actions.

“UK, this is coming to you. Be prepared. Fentanyl gives you bodies, P2P Meth gives you zombies. This is what’s coming to the UK.

“It’s a Tsunami, a perfect storm, and my message is, ‘Learn from us. Be prepared’.”

Drug addicts writhing around on the street pavements in Portland is a regular sightRupert Thorpe

Oregon is now the worst in the USA for young people dying from drugsRupert Thorpe

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