Mayor Ted Wheeler says Portland police are working tirelessly behind the scenes to build solid criminal cases against those behind the spike in shootings and violence at political protests.
Wheeler told the Portland Tribune on Monday, Oct. 5, that Police Chief Chuck Lovell has assigned a lieutenant and six officers to investigate the increase in shootings that followed the City Council's decision to disband the Gun Violence Reduction Team.
Wheeler also said he will recommend additional resources for the city's Office of Youth Violence Prevention during the annual fall budget adjustment hearing that will happen later this month. Most of the decisions will involve cutting spending because of declining revenues caused by the pandemic-related recession, however, Wheeler said.
And Wheeler said his office and the police are working closely with the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office to ensure those who destroy property and commit other acts of violence will be prosecuted. He cites the recent arrest of far-right Proud Boy member Alan Swinney on six felony charges for alleged crimes at two different downtown protests as an example of the investigative follow-up.
"Officers interviewed witnesses, contacted businesses for security videos and built their cases," said Wheeler. "People may think they've gotten away with something when they haven't."
Wheeler started the discussion by acknowledging Portland is facing a lot of challenges, including the increase in shootings, the recurring protest violence, the recession hurting many businesses and the large number of people living outdoors. He said city government is responding to the homeless crisis by opening hundreds of additional emergency shelter beds, with 175 located in two community centers and another 130-bed location under consideration.
"We need to do more to address the crisis that is right in front of us," said Wheeler, who praised the work being done by the Joint Office of Homeless Services funded by Portland and Multnomah County, but said it needs to focus more of its efforts on the chronically homeless.
"It's not a question of 'either-or,'" Wheeler said in response to a question about whether he is considering pulling the city out of the office. "It's a matter of 'both-and.'"
Wheeler also said he will announce a new effort to clean up graffiti and litter in coming days.
"People need to know Portland is clean and open for business," he said.
Wheeler is running for reelection, facing challenger Sarah Iannarone in the Nov. 3 general election after falling just short of the 50% plus one vote needed to win the May 11 primary election.
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