On Wednesday morning, homeowners in the Laurelhurst neighborhood along Southeast Oak Street woke to a rude surprise: slashed tires and shattered mirrors on their vehicles.
Homeowners tell WW many of the cars parked on Oak between 35th and 37th avenues adjacent to Laurelhurst Park were damaged.
Emails shared with WW, written by a member of the Laurelhurst Neighborhood Association board in the wake of the vandalism Wednesday morning, show that the member and at least one other neighbor suspect the perpetrator was a houseless camper living along Oak Street.
“Last night considerable damage was done on SE Oak Street by one camper who lives in the homeless camp on SE Oak by the Laurelhurst Park Annex. Multiple cars had tires slashed and mirrors broken,” Laurelhurst Neighborhood Association vice president TJ Browning wrote in an email. “At least one home had their landscaping destroyed and parking strip trees damaged. Last night’s criminal activity was all caught on at least one home video camera.”
“Although last night the camper was masked as in the photos below, a positive ID has been made,” Browning added, although she did not disclose the camper’s name, or whether she had reported the camper’s name to police.
The Portland Police Bureau did not respond to WW’s questions about whether a suspect had been identified.
Pictures in an email sent to Browning on Wednesday morning by one homeowner show what appears to be a man in black pants and a reddish jacket walking along the street.
“At our place, our landscape lights were pulled up at the front of our home, the illegal camping notice was placed alongside them (threat?). My car tires were slashed, our security system signs were pulled up, our recycling bins were overturned into 37th Street, and one of our young street trees was snapped at the base,” the homeowner wrote. “Along Oak Street, it looks like many other vehicles have had their tires slashed and their driver’s side mirrors broken as well.”
The neighbor added, “It’s difficult to see in the pictures/videos but I believe he’s holding a knife in his right hand which is how he slashed the vehicle tires. Also of note, I am pretty sure this is the same individual who came to my front door on May 25th and threatened to burn our house down. I recognize his gait and how he holds his head. I believe he’s a camper on Oak St.,” but he said he couldn’t be “100% certain” about it.
Police showed up Wednesday morning and spoke to neighbors about the damage.
A persistent houseless and car camp has taken up an entire block along Oak Street next to the park for over a year now. The camp has been swept multiple times by the city, but within days campers and cars have repopulated the street.
Earlier this month, members of the Laurelhurst neighborhood installed water-trough planters along 37th Avenue to deter campers. Within 24 hours, they’d been dismantled by anti-sweep activists. The neighbors did not get approval from the parks bureau or the city to install the planters. (The LNA declined to answer questions about where the funding came from for the planters.)
The planters were the latest spat between the neighborhood and campers. For over a year, neighbors have put pressure on city officials to disband and remove the camps. At the same time, anti-sweep activists have shown up to tear down the orange, flexible fencing put up by the city’s sweeps team.