OPINION: Oregonians deserve safer neighborhoods
Early in the morning on Sept. 24 last year, Jacob Eli Knight Vasquez walked into the Silver Dollar Pizza Co. after finishing his shift at McMenamins Blue Moon Tavern and Grill in Northwest Portland. Shortly after, he was fatally shot by a stray bullet.
In January 2021, Gov. Kate Brown commuted the sentence of Melvin Tillman, serving a sentence for burglary. Before the end of the year, a judge had issued an arrest warrant for more crimes committed by Tillman following his early release by the governor.
It is abundantly clear. Reducing crime and making communities safer must be the Legislature's No. 1 priority.
Just over a decade ago, the Oregon Legislature only met in odd-numbered years, but in 2010, voters approved a ballot measure directing the Legislature to meet for 35 days in even-numbered years.
Because the session is so short (35 days) legislators are limited to introducing two bills. There is only time for the highest priority bills, and Oregonians need the Legislature to take action on the drastic rise in crime that is plaguing our streets.
We tackled numerous issues during the 160 day legislative session last year, helping Oregonians recover from natural disasters, COVID-19 affects, government-mandated shutdowns, and more. Now it is time to focus on making communities safer.
Unfortunately, Oregon is headed in the wrong direction. Gov. Brown is laser-focused on the early release of serial burglars like Tillman, along with convicted murderers and rapists.
A record number of Oregonians like Vasquez were tragically shot and murdered in 2021, a year after the Portland City Council defunded the Gun Violence Reduction Unit. The new year has not brought any changes and we have already seen another nine murders in the first month of 2022.
Oregon ranks eighth worst in the country in property crime. Car and catalytic converter theft skyrocketed. Rioters and criminals have haunted small businesses by smashing windows, vandalizing and looting. Foreign drug cartels have planted roots in Southern Oregon for illegal marijuana grows where they terrorize and intimidate local communities. Oregon ranks in the top 25 percent in the United States for traffic fatalities after a 15 percent increase last year. Police officers, handcuffed by underfunding and regulations, are at their limits. Liberal prosecutors who let violent vandals back onto the streets only make these problems worse.
Republicans are looking at the state of public safety in Oregon and putting forward real solutions.
Our priority legislation includes funding for law enforcement by $60 million per year and to check the governor's power to pardon and shorten sentences for criminals.
Legislation the majority is introducing ignores the fact that crime in Oregon is the worst it has been in decades. Their priorities do not reflect what Oregonians need.
Democrats want to open the door for violent criminals to get out of prison early by retrying potentially thousands of cases, the majority of which are sexual abuse and assault cases. They want to limit the enforcement of simple road safety measures such as functioning headlights and tail lights, which can save lives. They are pushing for criminals who broke the law to vote from prison. To date, we have not seen one Democrat lawmaker push back on the governor's overreach in letting violent criminals out early.
The crime wave we are experiencing right now is destroying Oregonians' lives, livelihoods, life savings and communities.
Everyone has the right to be safe in their homes and neighborhoods, and victims of serious crimes should expect the justice system to protect them from their attacker, not release them early.
Republicans are putting forward a positive agenda to help Oregon stem the rise of violent crime in Oregon and return safety to our neighborhoods. No one's lives should be in danger when visiting their neighborhood bar. Businesses should not be plagued by burglaries, especially by someone who should still be serving time.
Oregonians deserve better. Republicans are demanding change.
Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp is a Republican serving the Bend and Redmond area. House Minority Leader Julie Breese-Iverson is a Republican serving the Prineville area.
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