PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — For 10 years, PPB Officer Derek Carmon was a member on the Gun Violence Reduction Team. But the GVRT was disbanded in mid-2020 and Carmon said they have to look to the community to be helpful in stopping gun violence.
“We need the community’s help. We need them to be upstanders and not bystanders. We need them to come forward,” he told KOIN 6 News. “That’s what it’s going to take.”
There has been a dramatic upswing in shootings in Portland and there are a variety of reasons for that. One, though, is gang violence.
“I think for sure a lot of shootings that we have in the city of Portland are related to gang violence,” he said. “It takes one shooting to just have a ripple effect and cause 10, 20 more shootings.”
He noted Portland had 5 shootings this past weekend. One in the Buckman neighborhood on Sunday ended with the arrest of a man who allegedly had a high-powered rifle perched in a window, and stray gunfire pierced the neighboring apartment.
In another, a 65-year-old woman in the Portsmouth neighborhood was shot in her ankle while sitting in her home.
“We’ve had 31 for the year so far — and we’re only 11 days into January,” he said Monday.
That number rose with a fatal shooting in the early hours of Tuesday in the Parkrose neighborhood.
There were 890 shootings in the city of Portland in 2020 — by far a record — and dramatically up from 393 the year before.
Carmon said with the amount of rounds being fired, it’s fortunate there hasn’t been more fatalities.
The bureau has a dashboard on their website that lets users see neighborhoods where the shootings are taking place. “It breaks it down by individuals injured and it does it for the last 3 years,” he said. “It’s updated monthly.”
The dashboard shines a light on where the shootings are taking place, mostly in North Portland and East Portland.
“When you look at that map you can see that it’s affecting our communities of color, so it’s important that that community comes forward and helps us solve this problem.”
‘Not endemic to Portland’
In a statement to KOIN 6 News, Mayor Ted Wheeler noted the spike in gun violence “is not endemic to Portland.”
“In the middle of a global pandemic, on the front edge of a deep recession with record unemployment, kids out of school, parents out of work, rent unpaid, and nowhere to go, the pressures we’re facing collectively and individually would have been unimaginable a year ago,” Wheeler said. “These pressures, and the lack of an effective federal safety net to relieve them, are contributing to the increase, and public health restrictions have limited our response toolkit.”
The mayor said they are working the the Office of Violence Prevention and others to build effective solutions “while avoiding the over-policing of the Black community that we have seen historically.”
Carmon, who is now a Public Information Officer for PPB, said what was interesting when he was on the GVRT people would speak with the officers.
“We were some of the officers that they could trust to talk to us about what was going on in the neighborhood and how they became a victim that evening,” he said.
It’s different now.
“It’s really hard when you have people who won’t talk to you at all, even when it’s their own family member who’s been injured. That’s really tough.”
Part of the reason is a “code in the community” where people won’t talk with the police, that people “are going to handle things on their own, and you know, again, that’s continuing that cycle of violence. We need that to stop. We need those people in the community to work with us to help stop the violence.”
Carmon understands people just want to be safe in their homes and be able to raise their kids in a place free from gunfire.
“I think if it were me I would be stomping my foot loudly to all my neighbors, to leaders and other stakeholders to say this level of violence is unacceptable, we need some decisions to be made now in order to help bring this to an end.”