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The Portland Peace Initiative wants to reach as many community groups as possible through a series of community listening sessions.

CONTRIBUTED GRAPHIC: PPI - More information is available on the website of the Portland Police Initiative.Portland community leaders are pleading for peace in the city streets as a summer wracked by violence comes to a close.

The city is on track for a record number of homicides this year, with gunfire breaking out nearly every day and night. So far in 2021, there have been 909 shootings and 63 homicides, according to the Portland Police Bureau.

Community leaders gathered online on Tuesday, Sept. 21 — the International Day of Peace — to launch the Portland Peace Initiative.

"We want to feel safe in Portland, and, the truth is, many of us do not feel safe," said former state Sen. Avel Gordly.

The initiative's goal is to reach as many community groups as possible through a series of listening sessions that will be professionally moderated. Pastor J.W. Matt Hennessee of the Inter-Faith Peace & Action Collaborative (IPAC) said they hope this will be a start to bringing the community together to end gun violence and re-imagine public safety in Portland.

Hennessee said it would take investment in community groups and the police bureau to have more resources to prevent and deter shootings.

"It's time we look in a broader way at what we do when it comes to this because the fight is not going away, the issue is getting worse, and we must not walk around as if it is not," he said.

While Hennessee says IPAC wants more policing, he understands the concerns many in the community have.

"Every one of us in this room has seen too much murder on the street… too much mistrust between community and police," he said. "Those who are concerned about the tactics of the [Portland] Police Bureau in the past — we feel the same way."

The first virtual listening session is set to place later this month. Anyone wanting to get involved can also email IPAC at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The Portland City Council recently held two work sessions with Community Safety Work Plan leaders working on a Community Safety Transition Plan. That plan has three priorities: refocus, reform and restaff.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler also said he is busy hiring additional staff for the police bureau, saying that the Focused Intervention Team will be fully staffed by November. One new program is a 'Retire, Rehire' program, which would allow around 80 officers set to retire to instead continue working.

IPAC says it also backs the city's investment in community groups and park rangers to help prevent violence.

KOIN 6 News is a news partner of the Portland Tribune.

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