PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — For 2 hours Thursday the Portland City Council listened to residents, professors, city division leaders and their own voices on the topic of gun violence and public safety. While long term plans were discussed, it was Commissioner Mingus Mapps who lasered in on the now.
“I’d like to see some specific goals around reducing gun violence,” Mapps said. He proposed a goal to reduce gun violence by 20% in the next 15 months.
“I’m agnostic in terms of how we get there,” he said. “Obviously we have to be true to our values and respect the constitution and people’s individual rights and people’s individualism.”
His comments came after commissioners heard from representatives of the Community Safety Division and the Office of Violence Prevention. Both talked about their long-term plans and approaches, but no discussion was held on what is being done to proactively stop the gun violence now.
The Community Safety Division, created in the spring, presented some of the work they’re doing with a multifaceted approach to solving the gun violence crisis.
Nike Greene with the Office of Violence Prevention talked about the life-coaching they’re doing for people impacted by gun violence.
Dr. Jonathan Jay, a professor from the Boston University School of Public Health, analyzes gun violence data. He said improving physical environments such as adding green spaces can reduce the problem.
“We have evidence that turning unkept vacant lots into simple small green spaces is associated with substantial reductions in gun violence,” Jay said.
It’s at least the second time Jay has taken part in a Portland city leaders forum on gun violence.
Some Portland residents also shared their thoughts on the progress being made.
“The response today, which I don’t disagree with as a whole, certainly does not sound like it’s an emergency response,” one man said. “It seems the response is to reduce 911 calls by investing in additional sidewalks, tree canopies and healthy food. None of these responses seem to be an emergency response to the crisis we’re currently facing.”
In April the Portland City Council voted to issue $6 million for gun violence prevention. Since then, shootings across the city have increased dramatically.
Mayor Ted Wheeler at one point acknowledged there’s been conflict among the city commissioners on key issues such as police staffing and said they must find a way to work around that.
Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty remains one of the biggest opponents of more police.
“We need real information about how Portland police officers spend their day. I’m not over the $152,000 that was spent for police officers to sit around all day and eat while East Portland was being terrorized,” she said.
Wheeler and PPB Chief Chuck Lovell will hold a press conference Friday morning to discuss public safety.