Burgerville Says Excessive Criminal Activity Led to the Closure of its Lents Location. Police Reports Don’t Support That.

Residents of the homeless camp next to the Lents Burgerville told WW in August they feared Burgerville had shut the location to pressure the city to sweep the camp.

Burgerville announced after signing a new labor contract with the Burgerville Workers Union on Nov. 12 that it would reopen all of its currently closed locations, including the one it closed in August in Lents.

At the time of the closure, a Burgerville representative said store staff had called police daily, and that “the environment around the restaurant has deteriorated seriously.…Burgerville employees have found weapons, drug paraphernalia, and human waste on the property.”

But records show that from the beginning of the year until Oct. 31, Portland police wrote just four reports about incidents that took place on the Burgerville property at 3504 SE 92nd Ave. Those included two assaults, a vehicle theft and a property hit-and-run.

All four were filed on or before June 1. Burgerville announced the closure Aug. 3. No reports had been filed at the restaurant for the previous three months.

Nonetheless, Burgerville says a dangerous environment fostered by a nearby homeless camp left its employees feeling unsafe, citing “Burgerville reports from 2018-2021, and communication with managers at the Lents location.”

“All of these demonstrate sustained issues at that restaurant. Managers became overwhelmed by the frequency of incidents and ongoing exposure to both criminal activity and noncriminal but still unsafe and unhygienic activity,” said a spokesperson, who would not provide their name. “Despite frequent calls to police, there was no response that addressed or mitigated the human waste, open drug use, paraphernalia, and safety risk that employees and guests were experiencing as a result of the activity and behaviors associated with the growing camp.”

Burgerville declined to share its in-house incident log.

The lot south of the Lents Burgerville, which contains a bowling alley and arcade called KingPins, has had slightly more reported incidents this year, nine. But that number is not on pace to match the number filed in 2019: 21.

Mark Medina, a spokesman for the union representing Burgerville employees, says workers never voiced fears: “I spoke to everyone at the Lents location, and the only notes I got were that they felt sorry for these people.”

Residents of the homeless camp next to the Lents Burgerville told WW in August they feared Burgerville had shut the location to pressure the city to sweep the camp.

And that’s what happened. Sometime during the week of Aug. 10, the city swept the portion of the camp situated on city property (near the multiuse path along Interstate 205), according to the city’s Office of Management and Finance.

Hillary Barbour, director of strategic initiatives at Burgerville, tells WW that Burgerville has continued to monitor the property with hired security guards and has had to periodically remove campers from its parking lot.

“We are fencing off the area that’s Burgerville property to make that more secure,” Barbour says. “We’re continuing to have private security monitor the property, we’re working on deescalation training for our employees, [and] we’re continuing to clean up that area.”

Below is a graph of police reports filed in the past five years for incidents at the Burgerville and adjacent KingPins lots.