At least 15 people were killed in Portland during the month of July, which was the highest number of deadly shootings or stabbings in a single month since the 1980s, according to authorities.
Police Chief Chuck Lovell addressed last month’s violence which ended on Friday following a 150-round shooting at an apartment building in the city. So far this year, 24 people in Portland have died in homicides.
“That’s very concerning to know that that many people have been killed in such a short period of time,” Lovell said on Thursday, according to Portland’s KATU. “These numbers were not acceptable.”
To solve the recent crimes, Lovell said the police bureau pulled officers from an “already diminished patrol” unit to help work on follow-up investigations.
“Our job, number one for us, is public safety and preservation of life. So we are, we’re going to resource some more people to the detective division to help follow up and do some investigation on those,” Lovell said. “It’s incumbent upon us as public safety professionals and police officers to go out and still do that work.”
He remarked how the bureau was forced to cut its Gun Violence Reduction Team at the direction of the City Council, which has made their job more difficult.
The 34-member team was broken up on July 1 following budget cuts to police units that reportedly targeted a disproportionate number of Black people in traffic stops, according to The Oregonian. It was the first month without the unit in more than a decade.
“What was really lost was the follow-up piece, picking up video, contacting people,” Lovell said.
Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty pushed to disband the Gun Violence Reduction Team, which was called a gang enforcement unit at the time, according to the station. She did so following a 2018 city audit which found that African Americans made up 59 percent of the unit’s traffic stops in 2016.
“I don’t think it’s a staffing issue, and no matter how often they say they’re overworked and underpaid, the reality is that Portland police have for a long time decided what they will investigate and what they won’t,” Hardesty said.
Shootings have also increased in July compared to the same time last year. There were a total of 63 shootings last month compared to 28 in July 2019, according to the Police Bureau.
In terms of the response times of officers, it took police almost 15 minutes to respond to a shots-fired call this year, compared to just under seven minutes last year, the station reported. Police had told KATU the ongoing nightly demonstrations in the city had strained the department’s resources.
Homicides, assaults, burglaries, and vandalism are also up when compared to last year, according to The Oregonian. Meanwhile, total person-to-person and property crimes are down from earlier years, police said.