PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — In the wake of a gunfire-filled weekend in Portland, city and county leaders met to discuss possible solutions to the problem, including efforts to get guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.
“One of the most important challenges we have right now is ending gun violence and saving lives,” Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese said. “I believe taking firearms out of the mix reduces reduces the lethality of these encounters, whether it’s family violence, gang violence, or crimes committed with a firearm.”
Reese was joined at the meeting by Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury, Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty and Gresham Police Chief Travis Gullberg.
According to the Portland Police Bureau, the metro area has experienced 969 shootings since the beginning of 2021. More than 300 people have been injured in those shootings, the bureau said.
Portland police and some city officials have said the bureau is heavily understaffed and needs more resources to keep up with the wave of crime.
Police data shows homicides have more than doubled in Portland over the last five years. So far in 2021, there have been 67 homicides — 30 of those cases have been solved.
PPB Officer Derek Carmon told KOIN 6 News the removal of the bureau’s Gun Violence Reduction Team in the summer of 2020 created a vacuum.
“It’s going to take time before the Focus Intervention Team and the Enhanced Crisis Intervention Team can get back up to speed and make a dent in this violence that’s occurring on the streets,” he said.
Echoing those sentiments, the Portland Police Association suggested Thursday that the city will need to hire 840 officers over the next five years — more than doubling its current size.
The association said it came up with the plan after hearing from community members and elected officials who are frustrated with the lack of a clean plan for public safety in the city.
On Tuesday, the Portland Police Bureau told KOIN 6 News it currently had 790 sworn members on staff — 535 of those members being officers.
The bureau is authorized for 919 sworn positions and currently has 129 vacancies.
Officials have blamed the shortage of personnel for slow response times and unsolved cases.
In one case that has yet to see an arrest, one man was shot to death late Friday night in a North Portland park.
The shooting was reported around 11:15 p.m. Friday near McCoy Park at North Fessenden and Newman, police said. Neighbors said they heard around 10 shots fired, and by the time police arrived, the victim had already died.
More and more innocent bystanders are being impacted by gun violence, too.
A 34-year-old man was killed and two others hurt last month when a gunman opened fire into a pizza shop in Northwest Portland.
Jacob Vasquez’s death was ruled a homicide, but police said they don’t think he was even the intended target. Silver Dollar Pizza’s owner, Sam Macbale, said there was no fight or argument preceding the shooting.
“It was completely out of the blue,” he said. However, investigators said they didn’t believe it was random.
Vasquez was the 48th person to be shot to death in Portland since January 2021. There have been 3 more deaths to gun violence across the city in the weeks since Vasquez was killed.