PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The City of Portland is experiencing a wave of gun violence unlike any seen in decades.
Four people were gunned down — all in separate shootings — this week alone and one person was shot to death in Gresham.
Sergeant Kenneth Duilio with the Portland Police Bureau’s Detective Division said Friday the city has logged a total of 852 shootings since the beginning of 2020, with a surge in gun violence taking place in the months of June and July.
“I think the City of Portland had three or four murders up to I think the end of May, mid-June, and then we’d had like 48 since and that pace is really bad — that puts Portland on a pace to have 100 homicides a year or more which would by far be a record that goes back 30-plus years,” said Duilio. “That’s super concerning.”
The City Council voted in June to dissolve the PPB’s Gun Violence Reduction Team amid nationwide protests for racial justice after the death of George Floyd. The GVRT came under fire for allegedly targeting members of the Black community at a disproportionate rate. Portland saw 99 shootings the following month compared to 35 in July of 2019, according to police data.
And shooting scenes have been getting larger.
“In the 10 years of working in gun violence I would say if we had a shooting at 40 or 50 casings, that was a lot,” said Duilio.
A 23-year-old Uber driver was shot in the head on Saturday in Northeast Portland on his way to pick up his next rider. Police said at least 60 shots were fired at his car.
“Since we’ve been disbanded, there’s been multiple shootings in the 60 to 80 range,” Duilio said. “We had one shooting that even had 151 casings at it and ballistically by doing an analysis on the casings we were able to identify around 10 different shooters.”
Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, who worked to win support for getting rid of the GVRT, had originally said the money that funded the unit would be used to create a street response team.
Duilio is among many voices at PPB who believe the city lost a lot of ground in the fight to limit gun violence when the GVRT was dissolved. He said the perception that the unit was singling out people based on race is false.
“Our stops were based on data and intelligence, knowledge and experiences — they’re not random traffic stops,” he said. “We deeply understand and care about the racial complexities of police and the relationships with communities of color and so for us, it’s actually the opposite: we want to build great relationships even in the face of trying to be effective in reducing gun violence and taking guns off the street.”
Duilio said the members of the GVRT worked hard to form relationships with the people involved in gun violence, their families and loved ones, and to better understand the challenges they were facing.
“Certainly we’re there to protect the community and hold people accountable, if someone’s carrying a gun and he shouldn’t be if he’s a felon, we’re going to hold them accountable,” he said. “But we’re going to treat him with respect when we do that and we’re also going to be there for him when he gets out of jail and try to make referrals to the Office of Violence Prevention, trying to help. Maybe they have a wife, they have a kid, they don’t want to go back to the gang life but they need a job — everybody needs income, and trying to help people establish themselves and get them back on their feet and get them out of this cycle of gang violence and living that life.”
A little over a month after the GVRT was defunded, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said he was working to establish a new and improved version of the team with the community’s help. On Friday, Wheeler, PPB Chief Chuck Lovell and Director of the Office of Violence Prevention Nike Greene announced that starting immediately, more detectives will be assigned to investigate shootings. Wheeler’s office added that more outreach and hospital-based trauma responders will also be sent into the field with the goal of reducing the “gun violence epidemic.”
“Gun violence has plagued our city at twice the rate of last year. On average someone is shot in Portland roughly every two days,” said Lovell. “There have been 51 homicides this year. We cannot lose sight of the fact that these are human beings who have died and there are broad traumatic impacts throughout the community for the lives that have been lost.”
Wheeler said he also asked the bureau to submit budget requests for near-term investments in filling gaps in the city’s current ability to respond to gun violence. The mayor reportedly intends to lobby City Council to provide the requested resources.