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The Portland mayor announces Safer Summer PDX plan to reduce shootings and deaths in coming months.

COURTESY PHOTO: KOIN 6 NEWS - The scene of a recent shooting.Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler unveiled a new action plan on Tuesday, June 28, to address gun violence over the summer months.

The Safer Summer PDX plan, the mayor said, will feature a newly-appointed team to work with Portland's Community Safety Division and comes as Wheeler is set to make an emergency declaration to address gun violence. There have been 42 deaths by gunfire in Portland so far this year. The most recent shooting happened early Wednesday in North Portland, where police found a man who had been shot multiple times provided emergency medical aid and applied a tourniquet to the man before he rushed to a nearby hospital.

In the press release, Wheeler said he will continue to work with City Council and community organizations for a unified approach.

"The summer months historically see a tragic surge in gun violence in Portland and across the nation. In order to effectively help address the problem at-scale, we must take coordinated action with experts and the local community," Wheeler said.

Wheeler said the new three-person team includes Shareef Khatib, who has 13 years of experience working with counter-violence programs in several countries including Iraq, Afghanistan and Malaysia.

Also on the Safer Summer PDX Team is Julian Massenburg of Portland, who has worked on the communications team for Portland's Office of Management and Finance. In 2021, he helped form the city's division of community safety, Wheeler said.

Kandel Ashley, of Portland, is also joining the team and has served as the Constituent Services Director in the mayor's office since 2021. Ashley previously worked for the Native American Youth and Family Center, where he worked with youth and young adults who were at risk of becoming involved in gang or gun violence.

Safer Summer PDX will also work with the Portland Police Bureau on strategies to deter gun violence. Wheeler said the new group will support other Portland Police Bureau groups such as the Focused Intervention Team and Enhanced Community Safety Team, which responds to active shootings, crime scenes and gun-related investigations.

"I am proud to welcome this distinguished team of professionals with a wide range of experience in strategic violence prevention. Together, we will continue to work to save lives and make for a safer Portland," Wheeler said.

Keely Williams's son Aaron was shot to death in Northeast Portland back in January and there are still no updates when it comes to the person responsible. She says he was one of the first murders of 2022 and has already lost track of how many have happened since. As this Safer Summer program continues, Williams says she'd like to see Wheeler out working with the community on these issues and helping them.

"I'm not that impressed with the mayor. I'm going to say it, and I haven't been, and I've been watching him for a while. I've been watching through the protesting, how he hides," Williams said. "If you don't have the answers, get out there and work with the people."

Tamikia Taylor's brother Jaquan Jenkins was shot to death just a few days later. She said that it's hard to have faith in Wheeler after so much violence has "festered" but it's time for something to be done by the city.

"I think it's necessary and overdue, that law enforcement and our city officials create a plan to get ahold of what has become too common in our community," she said. "It will take more than just addressing the guns. It needs to address the people behind the guns in full capacity. You see more and more people now willing to pick up a gun. More people are willing to not only take a life but also throw their own away. I can't say I have the answers for how to prevent what has happened to our family from happening to another, but it is time the city (to) try something."

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

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