Gresham Police talk short staffing, shooting spike
When Gresham Interim Police Chief Claudio Grandjean first joined the department in 1987, the city had three dedicated traffic officers on patrol.
Four decades later, Gresham fields four traffic officers despite the population of the city more than doubling.
"Our department hasn't been able to keep up," Grandjean said.
With a tight budget and under-staffed department, Grandjean spoke before Gresham City Council Tuesday morning, July 13, about public safety concerns and how city leaders can help. The conversation was framed around newly hired Police Chief Travis Gullberg, who is expected to take the reins in August.
"The mood here is substantially better right now," Grandjean said of the Gullberg hire. "I have known Travis for many years and I am glad for that choice."
During the meeting, council praised Grandjean for serving as interim chief.
"Chief Grandjean, thank you so much for stepping in at a critical junction in our community," said Mayor Travis Stovall. "Thank you for your great, and continued, leadership."
Gullberg will be taking over a department that is feeling the crunch with a tight budget and the staffing shortages plaguing law enforcement agencies across the country. In Gresham, the two areas hit hardest have been traffic patrols and detectives, who have been overworked with so many major crimes occurring within a short timeframe.
Gresham's traffic response is complaint/data driven. When residents reach out to the city about unsafe drivers, officers focus patrols in that area. They also use accident reports on a map to see where there are unsafe roadways in the city that need a police presence.
Compared to other municipalities in the region, Gresham stacks up poorly with only four traffic officers. Hillsboro fields eight traffic officers, while Beaverton has 21. While not all the data, and causes, have been investigated, it appears having more traffic officers limits accidents. In 2020, Beaverton only had 11 fatal or serious accidents, compared to Gresham's 21.
"I can tell you Beaverton writes a whole lot of tickets," Grandjean said.
Some of that comparison is unfair as Beaverton has a municipal court to fund some of those positions.
During the meeting, council spoke about concerns residents have. They have heard about an increase in street racing, loud mufflers that sound like gunfire, running red lights, especially at intersections along Southeast Division Street, and the thefts of cars and catalytic converters.
Council also spoke about the growing number of shootings and violence in the city.
"We wanted to address this (during the meeting) because there have been concerns about what is going on," said Deputy City Manager Corey Falls.
Shootings have more than doubled in Gresham this year as compared to 2020 — which was, in itself, an unusually violent year. As of the end of May, Gresham has recorded 74 shootings, compared to 29 shootings through the same time period last year. That has included two incidents that meet the national standard for "mass shootings."
One of the problems Gresham police face is how quickly the shootings have occurred, meaning detectives are working several complicated cases at once and being stretched thin.
"Even though our overall call load has gone down, major crimes has not," Grandjean said.
Those crimes take longer to sift through as well, especially with the bevy of data that is available. Detectives now have dozens of social media posts, body camera footage, security cameras from businesses and other resources. That information is helpful in solving cases, but adds to the workload.
Gresham officers are also dealing with more crimes locally. The regional Child Abuse Team was dissolved during the pandemic, so now the Gresham department investigates abuse and all referrals from the Oregon Department of Human Services.
All of this means detectives are usually unavailable when other crimes become complicated and require follow up.
"It's one thing to catch somebody doing a crime, but it is another to follow up and find someone," Grandjean said. "Right now we aren't doing a lot on property crimes at a detective level."
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