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Fatalities are increasing as the Portland Police Bureau struggles to patrol the streets.

COURTESY KOIN 6 NEWS - Portland police traffic Sgt. Engstrom at the Tuesday morning press conference.Traffic fatalities in Portland are spiking as the Portland Police Bureau is struggling to patrol the streets because of staffing shortages.

"It's not a coincidence that we're having so many fatalities," Traffic Division Sgt. Ty Engstrom said during a Thursday press conference. "It's hard to ignore the fact that we have a huge number, record setting numbers of fatalities, and we have very, very low numbers of police officers patrolling our streets."

According to Engstrom, 62 people have died in crashes on city streets by the morning of Nov. 30. Twenty-six of them have been pedestrians.

That compares to 58 fatalities, including 22 pedestrians, in all of 2021.

"We are at a three-decade high," said Engstrom, who noted that the next highest year was 1990 when 63 people were killed in Portland crashes. The number of pedestrian fatalities is at a 49-year high, he said.

Engstrom said there fewer motor officers and car officers for traffic enforcement than in previous years, meaning the bureau doesn't have the resources to patrol the streets.

"At the beginning of 2021, staffing levels in the PPB were so low that they had to dismantle almost the entire traffic division," Engstrom said.

Engstrom said the police bureau does not have a functioning traffic patrol division any longer. All of its officers except him have been transferred to the precincts because of staffing shortages.

"We used to have 35 motorcycle officers, plus cars," Engstrom said.

Based on his experience investigating major crashes, Engstrom said one or both of the parties are usually at fault. Many drivers are under the influence and speed. Pedestrians wear dark clothes, cross streets outside crosswalks away from light and may also be impaired.

The entire community has to act to stop these fatalities," said Engstrom.

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