The Portland Police Bureau has released information about the unit that works to reduce gun violence as Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty is working to disband it.
The Tactical Operations Division's Gun Violence Reduction Team (GVRT) was formerly called the Gang Enforcement Team. Its name and mission changed to include all gun-related crimes late last year. Hardesty has said she will introduce an amendment to Mayor Ted Wheeler's proposed budget to defund the unit because it had previously focused a disproportionate amount of its efforts on minorities.
Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw said the unit is still needed and effective at reducing gun violence in the city.
"Portland has not been immune to gun violence for quite some time. It negatively impacts all of us who live in, work in, or visit the city," Outlaw said in a Wednesday press release. "The work being done by the Gun Violence Reduction Team is cutting edge because of the collaborative approach and investigative response. We rely upon them to continue the collaboration with community partners to reduce gun violence city-wide using nationally recognized best practices."
The release included the following information about the unit:
• The Gun Violence Reduction Team transitioned from a gang-related gun crimes focus to triaging all shooting cases as of October 2018. Calls to 911 reporting shots fired between October 2018 to March 2019 are down 28%, since this change was made.
• So far this year, the unit has triaged 135 shootings. Of these, the team responded to 99 shooting scenes, and assigned 76 felony level shooting cases to the team's detectives.
• In these 135 shootings, 34 individuals were struck and injured by gunfire, 13 community members lives were taken, and 655 casings have been recovered so far.
• Since instituting the new model in October, the number of shootings per month has been trending downward (November-34, December-35, January-34, February-31, March-32, and April-29 shootings).
• Illegal firearm recoveries in the Portland are trending upward (2017-759, 2018-1034, and 2019 YTD-322 on track to an estimated 1,300.
The release also included photographs related to recent shooting cases to demonstrate the gravity and complexity of the cases, including:
• A ride share operator who was fueling the ride share vehicle when gunfire erupted nearby. The driver took cover by leaning over into the passenger seat. The vehicle was struck once by gunfire and a bullet penetrated the windshield and struck the space where the driver had been sitting seconds prior.
• A "road rage" case involving a victim with two very young children in a car. The car was struck multiple times by gunfire with the rounds penetrating the interior of the vehicle, narrowly missing the two young children.
• A home that was struck by numerous rounds of gunfire which was occupied by two elderly people. The rounds penetrated multiple walls in the house.
The release also said that in addition to the partnerships focusing on gun violence reduction, community members play an important part. The Portland Police Bureau works closely with the Office of Youth Violence Prevention and Enough is Enough PDX, a community-led campaign aimed at encouraging individuals to take a stand against violence in the area.
And the release said that the NIBIN (National Integrated Ballistic Information Network) program continues to provide critical investigative leads on shootings in a quick time frame. The unit has experienced a 27% success rate in linking cases for serial shooters. This program is made possible through a collaborative effort with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) and the Portland Area Crime Gun Initiative. These efforts are all components of the Crime Gun Intelligence Centers (CGICs), an interagency collaboration focused on the immediate collection, management, and analysis of crime gun evidence, such as shell casings, in real time, in an effort to identify shooters, disrupt criminal activity, and to prevent future violence.
For more information about CGICs, visit https://crimegunintelcenters.org.
A public hearing on Wheeler's proposed budget is set for 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 9, at the World Forestry Center adjacent to the Oregon Zoo. You can read a previous Portland Tribune story on Wheeler's budget here.
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