The Portland Police Bureau and Mayor Ted Wheeler came to the Lents neighborhood the night of Tuesday, Nov. 5 for a conversation about gun violence.
But the crowd of 100 didn't stick to the script. Many said they were concerned about a different, if no less intractable, issue: homelessness.
"Not all neighborhoods in Portland are burdened equally with that problem," Lents resident Wes Wolfe told the Tribune. "Laurelhurst, West Linn... they chase the bums out."
Sitting on stage were Police Chief Danielle Outlaw, the mayor and top leaders from PPB's East Precinct, Homicide Division and Gun Violence Reduction Team. City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty sat in the audience.
"Publicly, we are often criticized for over-policing the homeless population but we're also criticized for not doing enough," said Chief Outlaw.
Speaking at the Church of the Nazarene on Southeast Powell Boulevard just east of Interstate 205, Wheeler repeated his comments that East Portland is the true center of the city.
"Everybody in this community deserves to feel safe and to be safe," Wheeler said. "I fought during the last budget process in 2017 to actually increase the number of officers on the street."
But it can take 18 months for a funded position to translate into an another patrol officer cruising the neighborhood. And in the short term, reports of shots fired are up 22% in the East Precinct in quarter four, according to PPB.
Wolfe, who has lived in the area for three decades, said authorities weren't cracking down enough. He said he called the police after encountering a camper swinging a machete along the Springwater Corridor, but had been told by responding police that they could do little.
Joyce Beedle said she was disappointed that local officials had rejected the idea of converting the Wapato Jail into a community shelter. The never-used correctional facility was sold by Multnomah County earlier this year, and developer Jordan Schnitzer said he will likely demolish it soon.
"It's not going to be for everybody but it could certainly be for somebody," Beedle said. "They handcuff themselves from taking any action at all."
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