Gripped by gun violence gripping cities across the country, the mayor of Portland, Oregon, issued a new emergency declaration Thursday with the goal of reducing gun homicides by at least 10% in the next two years.
The initiative directs $2.4 million to community groups and prevention efforts.
“Emergency declarations can get results that the status quo can’t,” Wheeler said during a briefing at City Hall. “We will not stop until the gun violence stops.”
The number of shootings in Oregon’s largest city topped 670 in the first half of 2022, up from the pace of the same period last year.
Guns have been fueling a surge of deadly violence in Portland in a trend that has been playing out across the US. Gun homicide rates nationwide rose 35% between 2019 and 2020, the highest rate high in more than 25 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevention.
In the face of escalating violence, many cities are now trying to navigate how to maintain public safety while addressing calls to reform and “defund” the police sparked by the killing of George Floyd, as racial justice activists seek to have police budgets are reallocated to others. social services.
Portland, which was rocked by near-night Black Lives Matter protests for months in 2020, cut the city’s police budget by $15 million that year. But in November he changed course, funneling $5.2 million back to the police department as homicides skyrocketed.
At the briefing, Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell announced that 16 new police officers were sworn in Thursday in what he described as “the biggest new hire event we’ve had in a long, long time.” 300 additional police bureau employees the city intends to hire over the next three years.
But despite recent hiring and funding increases, Lovell said staffing shortages are hampering his department’s ability to fight crime.
“One of our top priorities is getting the staffing level back in the office,” Lovell said. “We are working as hard as we can to resolve these cases.”
Signaling a move away from the city’s recent cuts to its police budget in 2020, Wheeler said he plans to increase the department’s funding. “As long as this crisis exists, there will be funding,” Wheeler said.
The initiative aims to improve and centralize cooperation between law enforcement and community groups with the goal of increasing outreach to people at risk of being involved in gun violence.
Wheeler’s emergency declaration came in response to a report released by the Portland Police Bureau and the California Association for Safe Communities, a nonprofit organization that advises cities on reducing gun violence. The report found that last year Portland had a homicide rate of 13.5 per 100,000 residents, roughly double the national rate.
The number of homicides in Portland surpassed more populous cities like San Francisco and Boston. The Oregon city had twice as many murders compared to its larger Pacific Northwest neighbor, Seattle.
Portland reported a record 89 homicides last year, a 65% increase compared to 2020, according to the Portland Police Bureau. The vast majority of those homicides involved a firearm.
Shootings in Portland disproportionately affect communities of color. Blacks make up only 6% of the city’s population, but account for nearly 39% of homicide victims.
Communities across the US are grappling with rising shootings, with many still reeling from a series of killings that targeted a 4th of July parade in a Chicago suburb, black shoppers at a supermarket in Buffalo , New York, and children in an elementary school. in Uvalde, Texas.
Last month, Congress passed its biggest gun violence bill in 30 years. The legislation will improve background checks for gun buyers under the age of 21, toughen laws that prevent domestic violence offenders from obtaining firearms, and provide billions in funding for community mental health and crisis intervention programs. and schools.
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.