PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – A man died after police say he was struck by a car on North Columbia Boulevard and North Interstate Place just after 9 p.m. Sunday, amid an increase in deaths on Portland roads.
The city is seeing an increase in deaths on roadways as the Portland Police Bureau has been forced to cut back on its traffic team.
According to PPB, the Traffic Division is made up of the Major Crash Team and the Traffic Investigation Unit — totaling four investigators and one sergeant. PPB told KOIN 6 News that the team does not provide “proactive traffic enforcement.”
“I hear from a lot of people; they feel like our roads are less safe. People are driving more recklessly. I think that comes from the fact they recognize there’s less people doing day-to-day traffic enforcement,” said Portland Police Association President Aaron Schmautz.
He added “you’ve seen disorder growing, you’ve seen our agreement with society weakening, and it’s led to a lot of violence that manifests itself in schools, traffic and the violent uptick in Portland,” Schmautz said.
According to PPB, following another pedestrian death on Monday, this marks 31 pedestrian deaths in 2022, a 70-year high. The bureau added that the city has also seen 66 traffic fatalities in 2022.
“It is clear, that despite advances in technology, infrastructure, education and awareness, we are still not solving the problem and our traffic fatalities are at epidemic levels,” PPB said.
In 2021, police say there were 67 fatal crashes, 29 involved pedestrians — the most in Portland’s history, according to the Portland Police Bureau.
At the beginning of 2021, PPB staffing levels were so low that they had to dismantle almost the entire traffic division, according to PPB.
“You go back to when we started having these significant staffing issues… that’s when traffic, our drug unit, our community safety unit, all these things were cut at the same time and had lasting impact,” said Portland Police Association President Aaron Schmautz.
Schmautz said he thinks the amount of vulnerable and homeless people sleeping and living on sidewalks is contributing to the uptick in auto-pedestrian crashes.