PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Portland Police Bureau launched a new investigative team focused specifically in response to the recent rise in shootings.
The new team will be called the Enhanced Community Safety Team. They went out on their first call on Thursday.
“At the direction of Mayor Wheeler, we are implementing this right away to address violence in the city,” said Deputy Chief Chris Davis.
ECST will comprise of 3 police sergeants, 12 officers and 6 detectives. They will focus full time on investigations involving gun violence.
“We hope the work of this team to narrow our focus, really a small group of repeat shooters who are responsible for an oversized proportion of gun violence in the city. That’s not to say they are responsible for all of them,” Davis said.
Since the start of 2021, Portland has seen 144 shootings which left 40 people injured and 7 people dead, according to police data.
“We do know from experience that there is a small number of people who are involved in lots of incidents,” Davis said. “Working on tying those cases together, holding repeat offenders responsible will have a bigger impact on the problem.”
Davis said the goal is to get the repeat offenders “off the street, and reduce this really disturbing trend of gun violence in our neighborhood.”
Davis said the team will help free up patrol officers.
The PPB estimates the new program to cost about $150,000 to $160,000 for the rest of this current fiscal year, which lasts through June. Mayor Wheeler is expected to seek funding to help cover some costs, including on-call and overtime pay.
The Portland City Council voted to dissolve PPB’s Gun Violence Reduction Team last July, but since then there has been a major increase in violence – more than 100 shootings and over 30 non-fatal injuries for the year. There have also been 6 gun-related homicides for 2021.
Wheeler expressed support for the ECST.
“I want to be clear. I see what others see; too many people being shot and killed in our community. I am deeply impacted by the loss of life and the trauma plaguing our community. Immediate action is needed. That’s why I asked Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell for proposals about how best to respond and why I authorized the creation of an on-call team of officers to help investigate shootings that result in injuries or deaths. This is one of several law enforcement actions my administration is working on. We’re also working on increased prevention, intervention, education and support for victims and their families. Gun violence is a public health crisis. We are taking a holistic, evidence-based approach with our local, regional, state and federal partners.”