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Scott Taylor: Sick of Portland Street Kids Getting a Free Lunch

Monday, November 10, 2014


Photo by: Brett VA, Flickr, creative commons

So I’m in the Safeway in Northwest Portland the other day, the one in the gut of the new shiny Pearl district on Northwest LoveJoy Street. I’m debating whether to eat healthy or go with my instinct as a NY transplant and get a carb filled, gluten loaded, fat Italian sub, chips and a water. I don’t want to over do it.

As I peruse the buffet and cold-cut fridge I notice this tall, hooded, could be a tweeker, but not obvious, kid start to load up his, “TO GO” tray with heaping, loaded spoon full’s of chicken and a bunch of other delectables.

By this time in the day I was super hungry, because I hadn’t eaten and it was now 2:30 p.m. Watching this 20 something load his tray, my mouth started watering. I quickly overrode my involuntary salivating with my learned NY street smarts and considered the fact that after profiling him, (ooooooh he said the profiling word) this kid ain’t planning on paying for squat.

At that moment I noticed a worker, that had just moments ago carefully freshened a tray of steaming sweet and sour chicken.

We both start to watch this kid with the cunning of two private dicks. Then, as if in slow motion, this guy walks out of the door, leaving the story like a wedding bride down the isle, smiles and all.

WTF!!! I looked at my new cook friend and said, “ We both knew that was going to happen but why didn’t you stop him?"

He said that he couldn’t because it would be against store policy. The policy as it turns out, is to not intervene, but to contact a manager and let them handle it. By the time the manager is contacted it’s too late, obviously.

I stood there slack jawed and said, how can they afford to do that? He said that costumers pay for it in the long run; the prices have the theft loss built into them.

I walked out of the store feeling really hostile. I was pissed that this kid could just walk in and take something without consequence.

From my observation, this kid looked fit, most likely not a man with a starving and destitute family outside, since he began eating on his way out.

He was a reflection of the many kinds of people I see every day on my way to and from work. It’s an ever growing population of young men primarily, that have made working and living downtown no fun.

I lived in New York City in the 70s and 80s. The city was a hellhole and no one went out of their way to spend time there, if they could help it. It was depressing, broke, and ugly place to be.

The more the city turned it’s back on litter, petty crime, vandalism and quality of life issues, the more the economy tanked and the more people left in droves to the suburbs of Long Island, New Jersey and Westchester. Business died a death by a thousand cuts.

Years later we would watch similar demons at play in Detroit.

Here is what people got used to before a miracle happened.

1. If you rode the subways you would get mugged.

2. If you parked your car on the street it would get broken into. If you left it there for more than a day, you wanted it to get stolen.

3. If you walked in Central Park at night as a female you were going to get raped.

4. If you were in Time Square ever you were looking to get robbed and hassled by hookers pimps and drug dealers.

People got so frustrated that they started to take the law into their own hands. The world famous Guardian Angels, an unarmed group of volunteers that patrolled the subways in order to keep riders safe, was born around this time.

Mayor Rudy Giuliani thought that the state of the city was unacceptable and that something could and would be done to retake New York and make it livable again.

Over a number of years, with a take no excuses position, he cleaned the city up.

He motivated the right people and had a plan, like him or not, people are much better off today because of what happened there. Businesses are now thriving, not just big business, but all the little shops and hustlers you see today.

I once asked a New York cop that worked in the city for years how it happened

It all started with what that cop told me, was a good old fashion wood shampoo. What he meant is that some times it takes a little tap from a hickory stick to get the point across; that you mean business. Now just for the record, I’m not recommending cops should go beat up street bandit. I think people in Portland would find that cruel.

But at some point, the police and the city need to get a little less tolerant and a little more forceful in saying “enough is enough” with street kids and quality of life crimes.

I for one see no reason to be forced to live with people that don’t respect me or my fellow citizens.  By the way, just for the record, I also include the homeless as my fellow citizens and just because they have fallen on hard times as any of us could in a NY minute, they still deserve to be protected and cared for. These poor, non-criminal folks are often victims of these same spineless law-breakers.

So I guess what I’m saying is that I’m sick and tired of these people ruining my great city.

Originally from New York, Scott Taylor moved to Portland in 1996. He's an entrepreneur, Internet millionaire, former MadMan, author, eco-industrialist and disruptive force. 


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