The House of Pipes was broken into earlier this week, causing an estimated $100,000 in damage.
PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Portland businesses say they are at a breaking point as repeated break-ins make it harder for them to stay open – and they want city leaders to do more to stop it from growing.
KOIN 6 News asked elected officials tough questions about their plans to respond to business owners who felt their concerns were not being heard.
“It’s like Mission Impossible,” said Sami Hales, owner of House of Pipes and House of Vape. “They brought in bags full of candy and the machine razor cut it so fast, wow, I’m amazed how they did it.”
Burglars dressed in black were caught on camera this week as they prepared to break into the NE Broadway House of Pipes. They even appeared to use something to disarm the alarm system, the owners said.
“They quickly turned on the alarm directly and were able to turn it off very quickly. We didn’t know if they had a device or what they were doing to get over the keypad and figure out what our code was, but they used mine ,” said regional manager Brock Berg. “I’ve been with the company for eight years and I don’t share my code with anyone. I don’t know how they’re going to access it. It’s not even in my region anymore.”
Crooks stole safes and products while destroying thousands of dollars worth of glass tubes and display cases. Hales has had multiple burglaries at nearly 20 locations around the Portland metro area. Recently, someone even rammed a truck into a vaping home and ran in to steal what they could.
City records show that burglaries spiked in 2020 and continue to rise. The earliest records on the city’s dashboard show 3,904 burglaries were reported in 2016. In 2022, the number hit a new high of 5,869. Hales and other businesses that have been victims of repeated home break-ins such as Orox Leather and Blue Diamond say their insurance rates skyrocket each time such an incident occurs, making it difficult to make up lost revenue.
“In a smoke shop or a vape shop, insurance doesn’t cover the product,” Hales said. “Even if I don’t make a claim, they think I’m highly responsible for these kinds of things. In 2019, it’s an annual thing. But after 2020, ’21, ’22, it’s getting more and more in Portland. Worse.”
KOIN 6 raised some business concerns for new city commissioner Rene Gonzalez, who said many felt their concerns were not being heard. The city first needs to create new policies to serve victims, he said.
“We have to centralize victims in our criminal justice system. That hasn’t happened in cities, counties, and states in recent years. It means someone’s home was broken into, their business was broken into, and they matter,” Gonzal said. Reis said. “I think we need to build policy around that. We also have to collectively make other investments in the criminal justice system in cities, counties and states.”
Last week, KOIN 6 asked Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler what he was doing to help businesses.
“A couple of things need to happen. First, if business owners and operators can have cameras, it makes it easier to identify individuals and prosecute them,” Wheeler said. “Secondly, we need to be notified when things happen, and if we have a way to support businesses after the fact, we want to do that.”
KOIN 6 followed up on some ongoing concerns, but the Mayor was not available for a follow-up interview at this time. Some car owners like Hales say the cameras can only go so far when many crooks drive with their faces covered and without license plates. They want more accountability-oriented solutions from policymakers.
“If the mayor says cameras, we have 24 cameras, not even 12, we have 24 cameras. We have three doors, we have bars, we have two sirens instead of one. We have everything safe Everything,” Hales said. “We need more support, we need more police, we need more services.”
House of Pipes said lost income and damages from this week’s break-in are still being tallied, but the damage is estimated at about $100,000. While he plans to beef up security and add more safety measures, it won’t come cheap.