PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As leaders grapple with the growing violence in Portland, the city is on pace to set another record when it comes to homicides.
On Monday, PPB announced the November 27 death of Jesse Ray Burns Jr. in a Lloyd District fire is now being investigated as a homicide. According to data KOIN 6 New has compiled all year long, this brings the city’s unofficial total for 2022 to 90 — the same number of homicides in 2021 that broke a record, with three weeks left to go in the year.
PPB Chief Chuck Lovell recently told KOIN 6 News there is no easy answer to stop the upward homicide trend of the past few years.
“In time, we’ll be able to find some solutions, but it will take a lot of people. It’s not something the police are going to solve by ourselves,” Lovell said in October.
As the police bureau works to combat violent crime, it has also seen drops in staffing. Before swearing in 20 new officers in September, one officer said staffing reached its lowest number of officers in three decades in August.
Right now, funding doesn’t appear to be the issue — with $4.5 million in the Portland Police Bureau budget going unused due to vacancies. But Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has previously stated staffing struggles shouldn’t be an excuse for the growing violence.
“We should stop using the messaging at every turn that the reason we can’t help citizens with basic criminal justice issues is because we don’t have the personnel,” Mayor Wheeler said during a meeting earlier this year. “We have to find better ways to address this crisis.”
On Monday, Mayor Wheeler told KOIN 6 News the city is continuing efforts to reduce the violence, including street-level outreach, restaffing PPB with sworn officers and nonsworn PS3s, and revamping the Office of Violence Prevention.
In a statement, Wheeler said, “We will do everything in our power to see that gun criminals and murderers are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law in every way possible” and “justice for the victims and their loved ones demands nothing less.”
KOIN 6 News reached out to PPB for response to the homicide totals and what’s being done to prevent another record-breaking year from happening in 2023, but have not yet heard back.