PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — At a time when gunfire is becoming all too common on Portland streets, KOIN 6 News wants to know what city leaders think of the current state of gun violence and if they believe the changes the Council recently implemented are working.
After 2021 set a record for the number of reported shootings and homicides in Portland, 2022 is off to an even more violent start. KOIN 6 News dove into the numbers through February, the latest available from the Portland Police Bureau website.
246 reported shootings so far is more than the record-setting pace of 2021 and nearly four-times higher than what was reported in the city four years ago.
Homicides have increased along a similar trajectory the last four years, with 2022 also outpacing the record-setting pace of 2021.
“Unfortunately, gun violence and vandalism touches every corner of the city right now,” Portland City Commissioner Mingus Mapps said.
Emergency Services is one of the offices Mapps oversees and he reports in 2021, there was a 15% increase in calls for service, similar to the start of 2022.
This interview comes during a week that’s had shootings in areas where crime has become more commonplace, like Old Town China Town, and places where it’s been more seldom seen, like near Portland State University.
Mapps set a goal for reducing gun violence by 20% in 2022, a goal he still believes in despite this increase.
“I would say our gun violence problem has flattened out. It’s been increasing exponentially for the past two or three years. So far this year is looking a lot like last year, which is unacceptable,” Mapps said.
KOIN 6 News reporter Brandon Thompson asked Mapps “there’s about 60-63 more shootings at this point this year than there was last year, so is it really flattening out?”
“Well, take a look at the number of shootings versus the number of homicides, the data is muddy. I think it’s clear that we are not seeing the dramatic decrease in violence,” Mapps responded.
KOIN 6’s internal tally of homicides shows 24 through this point in the year, which would indicate the rate of homicides did slow down through March and the beginning of April, when compared to February and March.
In April 2021, Mapps and the rest of the Portland City Council approved a $6 million package to help establish the Community Safety Division.
$1.4 million will go to fund unarmed Park Rangers across the city and $4.1 million will be distributed to non-profit organizations that work with the city’s Community Safety Division.
KOIN 6 News asked Mapps when he expects to see results from those efforts, amid the record-pace of violence the city is currently on.
“I think we see the results of this group’s work everyday,” Mapps said.
He added “they’ve, I think, increased the number of arrests that we’ve made. So, this is very encouraging.”
Mapps is ready to propose more increases during the budget cycle this year including the “need to continue to grow the police department,” though he noted it takes 18 months for an officer to be hired and trained before going in the field.
Otherwise, he wants to continue fostering communities in the areas of the city that have experienced the most gun violence.
There are physical things—like adding street lights, encouraging people to trim bushes so perpetrators can’t hide—or things that aren’t as tangible like neighbors getting to know each other and holding neighborhood events to help bring people together.
Mapps noted “I believe that if we focus in on building community and getting the public safety and community building resources that we need out in East Portland, we can actually bend these numbers.”