PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – After an explosive weekend of gun violence in Gresham, where police recovered nearly 200 bullet casings, residents told KOIN 6 News they want to see even more action from the city.
Mayor Travis Stovall said they have seen people as young as 13 to 22 getting involved in gun violence in Gresham. So, he says, it’s important to take a comprehensive approach to get to the root causes and not only treat the symptoms of the problem.
“The first gut reaction is, of course, it’s frustration that these things are happening within our community. Somewhat anger, to be frank. But then, there’s hope,” Stovall said.
After a violent weekend, the mayor of Gresham says law enforcement is focused on missions with county and federal officers getting guns off the streets.
“A lot of the crime that we’re seeing is retaliatory in nature,” Stovall said.
That’s why, he says, the city has also invested heavily in their youth violence prevention programs.
“In this case, an ounce of prevention is worth 2,000 pounds of cure. The prevention component of it is incredibly important,” Stovall explained.
He said It’s equally important to address the underlying issues.
“It’s lack of opportunity, and that’s the critical component that we are missing in our community. There’s a direct correlation between poverty and crime and so if we can address the concept of poverty, we can address the concept of crime,” Stovall said.
While Gresham police say the number of shootings has risen exponentially in 2022, the mayor says so far, the homicide rate is down.
In 2021, the mayor says, Gresham’s homicide rate was 15 homicides per 100,000. So far in 2022, it’s 10 homicides per 100,000, year-to-date.
The mayor attributes the decline in deaths to the prevention and intervention work police and community groups are doing with at-risk kids.
However, he says Gresham’s biggest challenge is a lack of resources.
Gresham has $84 million dollars in its general fund. Hillsboro, which has a similar population size, has nearly twice as much funding at $171 million in their general fund.
“Hillsboro has a public safety levy that’s a $1.85 that they can utilize to put police and fire to work in their community. So they’ve been they’ve been able to make that investment,” Stovall said. “And we haven’t.”
Currently, the city is working to fill out their police ranks, but for decades Gresham has had an understaffed police force.
The mayor says that’s partly because voters turned down two public safety levies back in 2008 and 2014 that would have funded more officers.
“Right now, we’re about 20 officers down,” Stovall said.
The mayor says there is no better time than now, to serve and protect this community.
Gresham City Council is currently considering proposing a public safety levy with the goal to bring it to voters in May of 2023.
City Council will talk about the levy at their meeting next Tuesday.