PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Sam Sachs said enough is enough.
Sachs, the founder of the community group No Hate Zone, is focused on ending racism though community engagement. The former law enforcement member is now an activist who points out a large percentage of people hurt or killed by gun violence are Black — and he said not enough is being done to protect minority communities.
“I’m frustrated, I’m angry, I’m hurt,” Sachs told KOIN 6 News the day after another shooting in Portland left one dead and wounded. “There’s a shooting, like, every night and homicides are out of control.”
Sachs said he’s aware of PPBs new Enhanced Community Safety Team assigned to investigate shootings. It’s a step in the right direction, he said, but more needs to be done.
Over the summer, Portland city leaders redirected millions of funding from its Gun Violence Reduction Team after the unit faced criticism for disproportionately targeting Black people, according to several audits.
“The City Council remains silent. They have no plan since they got rid of GVRT. We have not heard of a plan. Today, I feel like we are in a state of emergency,” Sachs said. “Right now none of us are protected. The shootings are happening everywhere.”
Monday night PPB officers responded to several shootings around the same time all over the city.
Sachs said Portland’s gang problem is getting worse and that urgent action needs to be taken.
“To do nothing and sit back, the blood is on City Council’s hands, in my opinion,” he said.
While gang violence may be a contributing factor, Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, who was the driving force behind the vote to dissolve the Portland Police Bureau’s Gun Violence Reduction Team last July, also believes the increase in gun crimes is related to COVID-19.
“What we know is that historically in economic downturns, in economic devastation, the level of crimes go way up,” Hardesty said in a January interview.
Major U.S. cities like Chicago, Los Angeles and New York all saw dramatic increases in homicides, up to a 50% increase since 2019, according to NPR.
Sachs said there needs to be resources to help the communities affected along with a preventative approach.
Commissioner Mingus Mapps has called for similar strategies to curbing the violence.
“I think we need to have a multi-pronged strategy, one which focuses in on enforcement, especially on issues surrounding guns,” Mapps said in a January interview. “We need to have cops at the table at the same time. As soon as a trigger has been pulled, it’s far too late — and I think that’s why we need to focus in on prevention programs.”
In a statement to KOIN 6 News, Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office said he “is working urgently with law enforcement partners, non-law enforcement partners, community leaders and other involved agencies and stakeholders to address the spike in gun violence. We are planning to share the latest action items that come from that collaboration to address gun violence possibly as soon as the end of this week, with more to come in the weeks ahead.”
KOIN 6 News also reached out to Gov. Kate Brown for comment. At this time, there has been no response.