PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – As Portland continues pacing record homicide rates this year, Mayor Ted Wheeler and other city officials discussed the city’s efforts toward ending gun violence.
During a press conference on Thursday, the mayor gave a status report on the work between the city, county, federal and community-based organizations.
He was joined by Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Gabriel, Chief Deputy District Attorney Kirsten Snowden and Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell and PPB staff, and community-based partners.
“Our criminal justice system is simply in crisis. We have criminal defense attorneys who are unable to accept new cases due to crushing workloads and we in the DA’s office are not immune to that,” Snowden said.
Similar to the district attorney’s office, the Portland Police Bureau has struggled to keep up as it faces a “critical shortage” of law enforcement personnel. According to Wheeler, the city is at a 28 year low.
Snowden continued saying gun violence is the office’s top priority as it’s become a “public health crisis.”
Both Snowden and Chief Lovell echoed that 2022 is on track to surpass the previous record for gun violence cases. Out of the 20 homicides already recorded this year, Lovell said all but one were from gunshots. With that, gun violence referrals are reportedly up more than 450%.
Despite homicides pacing record highs, Wheeler said police reform like the Focus Intervention Team — which launched nearly two months ago — is working.
“FIT officers aren’t just responding to violence, they’re working to prevent violence from happening in the first place,” said Wheeler.
The press conference comes after January 2022 saw an uptick in reported shootings in Portland compared to January 2021.
There were 107 shootings recorded in January 2022 and 104 in January 2021, a nearly 3% increase. Portland Police Bureau said 26 people were injured as a result of shootings in the first month of 2022 compared to 27 in January 2021.
The full press conference can be viewed in the video player below.