PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The City of Portland is now at 90 homicides so far in 2022 — the same number that broke a record for the city in 2021, with three weeks left in the year.
KOIN 6 News is asking city leaders what is being done to prevent that from happening again in 2023.
As the city works to combat the crisis with the potential for another record-breaking year of homicides, officials say it’s important to first look at when things changed and why, especially, as the city saw a very low per capita rate of homicides for decades, before it suddenly switched three years ago.
“Starting in 2019, 2020, 2021, that homicide rate started to grow and it grew at a 207% rate, 2019 to 2021, stopping at the high 80s, low 90s mark, set that record in 2021,” said Mike Myers, the community safety transition director for the City of Portland. “That 200% growth rate was unprecedented, one of the highest in the United States as far as growth rates are concerned.”
The growth rate prompted increased efforts this year, including the Safer Summer PDX initiative, to combat it from the street level with outreach workers and a boosted response of the Focused Intervention Team and Enhanced Community Safety Team. Leaders say while it’s concerning the city has reached 90 homicides again for 2022, they believe it’s also proof the outreach efforts are beginning to take root.
“All of these different efforts that we’ve done this year have kind of allowed us to keep the homicide rate in check. We’re no longer seeing the 207% growth,” said Myers. “We have three weeks to go, we have a lot of things operating and working out there. Our hope is we can keep it at this number before we curve over that number and start driving it down in 2023.”
They also attribute the slowing in exponential growth to efforts in certain neighborhoods plagued by gun violence like the Downtown Entertainment District with new patrol detail, closing down streets for pedestrians, and even boosting lighting in problematic parking lots.
“From the time we recognized the problem down there and put the detail together, we have not had the murders and the homicides that we had before,” said Myers.
They also cite recent and similar efforts along a crime-filled stretch of NE 82nd near Milton and Beech. The city plans to continue those efforts in other Portland communities riddled with violence.
Despite the city’s assurance, homicides have increased in the second half of this year, with August, September and October all seeing double-digit homicide totals. Now, as they look forward to preventing any new growth of homicides in 2023, they say it’s important that these investments don’t end, but instead, remain ongoing, even in areas they’ve already put focus on like the Entertainment District and NE 82nd Avenue.
“The amount of time and effort and money and detail that we’re putting into reducing the gun violence actually needs to continue over the next several months in order to not just see that curve stop, but you’ll start to see it go down,” said Myers.
Director Myers says with success seen in their targeted efforts in the Entertainment District and on NE 82nd, their next two neighborhoods to narrow in on in the immediate future will be Powellhurst-Gilbert and Hazelwood.
Commissioner Mingus Mapps also released a statement in response to the homicide totals for 2022 and the continued work to be done, saying: “This has been another tragic year of homicides for the city of Portland. This cannot and will not be our new normal. I have high confidence in the Mayor, the Community Safety Division, the Portland Police Bureau, and our community partners to significantly reduce homicides and shootings in 2023.”