Estacada pledges help in ending illegal activity in alley near high school

by: Gus Jarvis This alley between Fifth and Sixth avenues seems to be a place where people feel safe doing and dealing drugs, fighting and urinating in public, according to a resident who owns property in the vicinity.

Members of the Estacada City Council recently considered scheduling a work session to discuss the problematic activity that regularly occurs in an alley near the junior/senior high school between Fifth and Sixth Avenues.

Resident Hans Wortel, who lives on North Broadway Street and has a backyard that abuts the alley, spoke to the Estacada City Council at its June 13 meeting about the problem, which he said has been going on since he moved there.

Wortel said the alley is a place were young people regularly congregate, spread litter, use drugs, fight and urinate in public. He told the council he couldn't find anyone to help solve the problem.

'People use this area as a restroom,' Wortel said. 'Drug use and dealing are in full swing. They bring lots of trash because the market there is convenient. They go there because no one can see them from Sixth Avenue.'

Wortel went on to say he had spoken to the council on this problem 15 years ago and the only thing that came of his complaint was a 'No Loitering' sign, which, he said, has not done much to solve the problem.

'This has been going on for 20 years,' he said. 'When we first moved in, we had a 'fight club' situation going on back there. We thought we had a good deal buying that house and then we came home and in the alley there was one guy bleeding really bad.'

Wortel said he has called the Estacada School District about the problem and they instructed him to call the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office. When he calls the sheriff, he said, they tell him to take a picture, so he does, often angering those who are in the alley.

'It's disturbing because nothing has been done about it,' Wortel said. 'I have been everywhere.'

When Estacada High School had a school resource officer, Wortel said, the officer patrolled the alley a few times, producing positive results.

But once the officer left, the loitering returned to the alley. Because of its budget crunch, the school district will no longer have a school resource officer on campus.

Councilor Glen James suggested the council discuss the creation of some sort of neighborhood watch system or community outreach program to help solve the problem.

'We are shooting ourselves in the good foot if we don't do something about it,' James said.

Mayor Becky Arnold agreed.

'During football games, I know that alley is packed out,' Arnold said. 'I am with you, Glen. I think we need to do more and not just talk about it. Maybe this volunteer neighborhood watch is a topic for a public workshop. Molalla and Sandy are doing it.'

It was unclear at the end of Monday's meeting when a public work session would be scheduled, but the council did assure Wortel he would hear from city staff on how it plans to move forward in solving the problem.