PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland leaders and officials gathered for a press conference against gun violence on Thursday afternoon.
Pastor JW Matt Hennessee held a “Community Call to Action Against Gun Violence” at the Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church. Hennessee said that podium where he stood was the only place in Oregon that Martin Luther King Jr. ever spoke in Oregon.
Hennessee urged gun violence to stop. He recently lost his step-son in a shooting.
Mayor Ted Wheeler also delivered remarks, praising Hennessee for his work in the community.
“We know the spike in gun violence is not endemic of Portland, it’s happening all across the country…but Portland’s crisis is what matters to us and Portland’s crisis is our responsibility to solve,” Wheeler said.
“I’m deeply impacted by the lost of life and the trauma that’s currently plaguing our community. More action is needed and we are working urgently on that action,” Wheeler said.
Portland Police Bureau Chief Chuck Lovell said the work they are doing is in collaboration with the community. A representative for DA Mike Schmidt spoke, saying the DA’s office has allocated additional resources to prosecute gun crimes.
Acting U.S. Attorney for Oregon Scott Asphaug said gun violence was a top priority for his office.
“Gun violence is a community wide problem,” Asphaug said.
The press conference comes ahead of Saturday’s planned March Against Murder.
The sound of gunfire is becoming increasingly familiar across Portland as shootings and homicides reach historic rates, with no sign of slowing down.
Police in Portland reported a staggering 347 shootings citywide between January 1 and April 30. There were 393 shootings in the entire year of 2019. In 2020, that figure increased to about 900.
With hundreds of shootings already this year in Portland and more than 100 people injured by gunfire by the end of April, the city is also experiencing a huge spike in homicides. The Portland Police Bureau logged 56 total homicides.
The dramatic rise in violence comes at a time when the PPB’s staffing is at its lowest in decades. While everyone agrees this is a major problem for the Rose City, no one seems to be able to agree on how to solve it.
As of late April, Portland police said they’re more than 100 members short of “authorized strength.” In exit interviews, members cited burnout, ongoing riots and low morale as reasons for leaving. Some said they didn’t feel supported by their city council.