An Oregon police department are hoping increased foot patrols will help curb an increase in homelessness and drug overdoses.
Portland police began deploying the four-officer patrol teams to an expanded area in the city's downtown following a spate of overdoses, KGW-TV reports. The patrols, which were ordered by the mayor and police commissioner, had started last month in a smaller section of the city's center.
“It's about trying to help people, like we always do, however we can,” said Sgt. Kyle Hefley.
When it comes to combatting the drug problem, the biggest concern for Portland police is fentanyl. Officers also worry about the introduction of "tranq"— a flesh-eating mix of fentanyl and horse tranquilizers.
“If we can stay ahead of and just, try to help people out most of the time ... on the ODs," said Hefley. "It's not people taking something that's trying to kill them, they're taking something that they don't know what it is."
And ultimately, that's the goal of the patrols: saving lives.
"They're used to seeing us driving by in cars and busy going from call to call to call, but (it helps) when we can walk up and have a conversation with somebody and let them know, 'Hey, we're out here trying to help people,'" said Hefley.