PORTLAND, Ore. – A 70-year-old man is recovering in the hospital after police said he was attacked outside the downtown Portland business where he works on Monday.
Witnesses told police that a large group of transient "street kids" attacked Larry Allen and hit him over the head with a skateboard. Allen is expected to be fine, but he needed 14 stitches, according to his boss.
Police have not arrested a suspect in the attack.
Allen works at the Portland Outdoor Store at Southwest 3rd Avenue and Oak Street. Witnesses told police he was attacked while hosing off the sidewalk.
Mayor Charlie Hales’ office and the Portland Business Alliance both say the key to preventing attacks like this is solving Portland’s homelessness problem.
Hales’ spokesman Dana Haynes said they’re working with homeless advocates and law enforcement to come up with a solution.
“If we can start to whittle away those numbers, if we can find answers for more of those people, it creates less of an air in which people think they can get away with certain things,” said Haynes.
Portland Outdoor Store owner Brad Popick said Allen has worked at the store for 35 years.
Popick said he has been trying to get the city to take action for years on what he said has been a growing problem outside his store's doors.
Haynes said he called Popick after he heard about the attack.
Portland Business Alliance spokeswoman Megan Doern said if the city would stop letting people hang out and camp on sidewalks, attacks would be less likely to happen.
“I think if we had stronger ordinances and more enforcement, it would make Portland a less desirable place for street youth and summer travelers,” said Doern.
She said major cities like Seattle and San Francisco are much tougher on sidewalk ordinances.
Portland used to have a stricter sidewalk ordinance, but a judge tossed it out eight years ago.
Haynes said in the long term, the city will likely need help from the state Legislature to get tough on sidewalk camping.
Downtown business owner Bryan Veal said he’s seen the problem first hand.
“A big group of street kids tried to attack a couple of the cart owners,” he said. “I think it’s something we’re just going to have to deal with. You know, it’s going to have to come from higher up.”