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Portland is grappling with a surge in violent crime following the Black Lives Matter protests that have rocked the city following the death of George Floyd. There have been more killings in a single month than in the past three decades. Budget cuts to the police department, at the direction of the City Council, have caused the city’s homicide levels to skyrocket.
Portland has seen 63 shootings so far in July—a stark contrast to the 28 in July 2019.
The Oregonian reportsthat Portland police are now responding to 15 homicides—the most killings in one month than more than three decades. Police figures show an alarming rise in violent crimes including homicides, assaults, and burglaries.
According to the paper, the most recent killing happened on Tuesday when a 34-year-old woman was stabbed to death in her home after attending a vigil for 27-year-old Tyrell Penney, who was killed in a shooting last Saturday.
Speaking to the press on Thursday, Police Chief Chuck Lovell expressed concern about the rise in violent crime and has since tasked its already-diminished unit of patrol officers to the detective division to aid in both new and on-going investigations.
He stated that the police were forced to cut its Gun Violence Reduction Team at the orders of the City Council, which has caved to the demands of Black Lives Matter protesters in defunding the police. The 34-member team was disbanded in its entirety following budget cuts to the Portland Police Bureau. July is the first month in over a decade since the force went without the unit.
“That’s very concerning to know that that many people have been killed in such a short period of time,” Lovell said. “These numbers were not acceptable.”
“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 added. “It’s incumbent upon us as public safety professionals and police officers to go out and still do that work.”
Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, who pushed for the dissolution of the police, disagrees with the bureau’s assessment and claims that the rise in violent crime has nothing to do with the shortage of manpower.
“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, KATU2 reported.
Hardesty cited a city audit from 2018 that found that the gun violence reduction team’s gang enforcement unit had stopped a disproportionate number of black people. Hardesty says the police should stick to investigating violent crimes and stop responding to homeless calls and mental health calls.