Fuck yes they should have done more earlier on. These kids have been a menace for about 3 years.
I can't really put the blame on the police, I wish it were that simple.
The prosecutors won't put serious charges on anyone but the worst offenders. If someone commits an assault they go to jail and are back on the street the next day. It goes to trial, and the perpetrator gets a week in jail, maybe they get out early. I wish I could blame the prosecutors but it's not that simple.
There isn't enough jail space to put serious time on anyone. We built the Wapato Corrections Facility via a ballot levey but never came up with the money to man it. It's sat empty since the 90's soaking public money and providing a set for some TV and film productions at an initial cost of 58 million and 50k a month in upkeep for the last two decades. It's never held one prisoner.
In the end crimes like simple battery and pettty theft aren't even charged because there is little point.
These kids were never going to get any real charges for petty theft or simple assaults, so the cops didn't waste their time. There are too few cops for a city of Portland's size and they spend most their time running from call to call. Arresting these kids takes an officer off the street for a few hours, doesn't have any meaningful consequences for the kids and leaves the rest of the cops in that precinct without backup if they get a dangerous call.
I've overheard cops at the shop talking about how often they have to take dangerous calls with no backup and how bad it stresses them out. I'm unsympathetic to at least half of their gripes but Portland police are undermanned and aren't the omnipotent the dispensers of Justice they are often regarded as. They are a small cog in a shitty wheel that leaves us all victims.
The cops refer the whole mess to child protective services. CPS comes out to investigate and everyone living in that shitty house knows they aren't supposed to open the door to anyone they don't know, so CPS gets back in their car after no one answers and goes to their next call.
These kids are a problem without a good solution with the system we currently have.
I sincerely believe that the majority of the police would like to do more. I think at least half of officers time is spent dealing with problems related to homelessness, problems which they aren't a long term solution. Before I come off as a cop apologist at least 10% of the force are vile human beings who should never power over anyone. I've seen them do some shitty, violent things and put charges on people who were nothing but law abiding citizens just because they are sick fucking sadists.
A few days a ago I was out walking my dog with my family and my wife noticed a set of license plates in an ally. I decided to call them in. 5 minutes on hold with non emergency, I give the location of the plates. About 45 minutes later I get a call from an officer that he can't find the plates, I was a block away just retuning home from our walk. The operator did a shitty job giving the location or the officer didn't know east from West, he's a block off. I show him the plates, we thank each other and five minutes later walking up my drive way he calls me back. "Hey I just wanted to let you know I found the car the plates belong too, it's stolen and the owner is on his way to retrieve it right now." I feel pretty sure most officers would like the tools to do their job to at least an adequate degree. Many of them would like to do their job well. They aren't in that position.