Monday afternoon inside the Bend BottleDrop at 755 NE Second St. was a constant stream of people feeding the walls glass and aluminum. Bottles clanged below the sound of a powerful floor fan, set up for cooling and ventilation, and, possibly, the smell.
In line to use of one of the 13 reverse vending machines was never fewer than six people. One man who carried in eight full garbage bags of recyclables — four in each hand — was later seen returning to his vehicle for more bags.
In the first quarter of 2018, this Bend BottleDrop collected 8.2 million beverage containers, according to the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative, which operates the center.
And in the past year, Deschutes 911 has handled 270 law enforcement calls at the BottleDrop address alone. Many are public urination reports, impounded vehicles and officers being flagged down.
“We’ve been having a lot of problems at the BottleDrop,” said Bend Police spokesman Lt. Clint Burleigh. “And it’s not their fault. It’s the nature of that business. It’s used by everyone in town.”
Last week, Bend Police announced a “proactive policing campaign” aimed at the Bend BottleDrop that’s already produced numerous arrests for theft, drug use, drug dealing, littering, trespassing and other crimes.
“It is routine to drive through the area and see numerous known drug users with substantial criminal histories in the area,” Bend Police Officer Ben Emerson wrote in a recent search warrant affidavit.
The ongoing campaign has involved the use of plainclothes surveillance, uniformed patrol officers and confidential informants, according to court documents.
The so-called “intelligence-led policing” effort is intended to make the location safe for all members of the community to use, Burleigh said. It’s so far included a weekly trash pickup by police and residents. It has also involved the return of 100 stolen shopping carts to local businesses and the arrest of six people for stealing carts, which are valued at $250 a piece, according to Bend Police.
Over the past four months, two people have been arrested at the BottleDrop property for offensive littering, and 11 for drugs. Seven abandoned vehicles have been impounded.
According to Burleigh, the effort began with Sgt. Dan Ritchey 2 1⁄2 years ago and continued after Ritchey’s retirement, with Sgt. Mike Landolt assuming the assignment.
As examples of its new approach, Bend Police cited the four criminal arrests that came from the investigation of a Jeep police say had been used for two months to conduct illegal drug transactions.
According to Emerson, he witnessed “continuous drug activity” associated with the silver 2009 Jeep Liberty belonging to Thomas “Cole” Dillard, 44.
“Dillard lives in the Jeep and the Jeep no longer runs,” Emerson wrote. “The vehicle has been parked in the area of NE 2nd and NE Hawthorne for approximately two months, but moves up and down NE 2nd when tagged as abandoned by the Bend Police Department to avoid being towed.”
Dillard was arrested on suspicion of possessing methamphetamine and delivering methamphetamine, as well as the violation of frequenting a place where drugs are used. Three other adults were arrested on lesser charges and taken, along with Dillard, to the Deschutes County jail.
Alleged criminal behavior around the bottle drop was an issue in the May 14 shooting of a homeless man by an occupant of the nearby Days Inn. Heavy equipment operator Robert Garris pulled out his handgun after approaching Christopher Nolan, 29, and another man, and Nolan pulling out his knife. District Attorney John Hummel determined Garris acted in self-defense but denounced his “vigilante” outlook for targeting poor people who ventured near Days Inn property.
Monday afternoon, Karli Foster was dropping off the bottles and cans collected at Bend’s two Cafe Yumm locations, which she co-owns. It was her second visit to the center that day. The money she gets at the BottleDrop she puts into employee gifts, like $10 gift certificates to local coffee shops, or a pizza party.
She said she’s fine with the heavy police presence and isn’t bothered by the homeless people camping outside in the early morning.
“I see the same people,” she said. “A few of them, I think they’re friends with the cops.”
At around 1:30 p.m. Monday, Fred and Laura Koch had to take their items inside rather than dropping off outside. Laura Koch said she “holds her breath and goes in.”
The smell was the only thing the couple took issue with. “The service people are nice and helpful, and the system seems to be working,” Fred Koch said.
— Reporter: 541-383-0325, email@example.com