Portland's mayor turns down Nike's request for help with theft, Walmart closing remaining stores in the city

(AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File)

Earlier this week Jazz wrote about an unusual request made by Nike directly to Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler. Nike’s store in Northeast Portland has been closed for months because of ongoing retail theft and the company wrote to ask if it could either pay to hire additional cops to patrol the area or pay off duty cops to do so. Today, Mayor Wheeler said no.

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Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has asked Nike to reopen its shuttered community store in Northeast Portland “on a limited basis,” even though he says the city can’t meet the company’s request to detail off-duty police officers to provide security…

“PPB does not currently have the capacity to offer secondary employment to any private business in the city,” he wrote.

“The Police Bureau currently relies heavily on overtime to reach even minimum staffing levels for regular shifts,” Wheeler continued. “A significant personnel constraint persists, which is not driven by a shortage of funding.”

That’s a roundabout way of saying the city still hasn’t nearly recovered from its brush with defunding the police, an exceptionally stupid idea that the city embraced in 2020. Defund resulted in experienced officers running for the exits. But the mayor’s response letter also suggested that Nike may be part of the problem by refusing to allow its own on site security to detain shoplifters.

Wheeler said in his letter that Portland police would likely be able to commit to increasing patrols in the area as well as conduct targeted retail theft missions, provided that Nike and other employers could all agree to several conditions.

Among them: Nike and other retailers must report thefts to police and let its certified security guards detain shoplifting suspects, something many retailers are loath to do for fear of liability.

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In other words, Nike wants the city to station officers outside to arrest thieves because it won’t allow its own staff to touch them. Nike can’t afford to keep the store open because of theft and it can’t afford to stop the thieves because of lawsuits. It’s a miracle Amazon hasn’t wiped out 100% of local businesses trying to deal with this garbage.

In a related story, Walmart confirmed this week that it is closing all remaining stores in Portland. Walmart CEO Doug McMillon warned in December that the scourge of retain theft might force the company to close stores or raise prices.

“Theft is an issue. It’s higher than what it has historically been,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

“We’ve got safety measures, security measures that we’ve put in place by store location. I think local law enforcement being staffed and being a good partner is part of that equation, and that’s normally how we approach it,” McMillon said.

But of course Portland’s law enforcement isn’t staffed and they aren’t a good partner so the stores are closing. Looking around I see Walmart has closed several stores in the last month in Washington DC, Chicago, Milwaukee and Albuquerque. It’s not clear if these closures were motivated by theft but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were.

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Again, you won’t see anyone in the media pointing out that this is directly connected to defund the police but that’s the reality even if no one wants to admit it.

Update: This report on retail theft in Portland is four months old but is a pretty good primer on the problem. The Nike store mentioned above also gets a mention here as a hotspot for thieves.

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John Stossel 5:30 PM | July 13, 2024
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