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Gun violence explodes in East Portland; you can give the credit for that to a decision by the City Council

COMPILED FROM PORTLAND POLICE BUREAU RECORDS - For context in interpreting this graph, the Portland task force to reduce gun violence was disbanded in early June of this year.In the present time, when so much of our city's policy seems driven more by emotion than by logic, it seems to us that the decision to disband the Portland Police Bureau's "Gun Violence Reduction Team" must have been more a philosophical than a practical one, because it certainly has put its citizens at greater risk. ALL of its citizens, throughout the city. And it presents more evidence that Portland's outdated form of city government needs an overhaul.

The decision to discontinue a special task force to address gun violence was puzzling. There was, after all, plenty of statistics to show that at least parts of Portland have been victimized by a very serious problem with gun violence. Outer East Portland, in particular, was experiencing a steady drumbeat of shootings and killings by gunfire, and has been for years.

In fact, the Portland Police Gun Violence Reduction Team has long been a welcome resource there, to address the shootings, injuries, and killings east of S.E. 92nd Avenue of Roses for the residents of the most recently annexed section of the city. When the idea of eliminating this dedicated outreach was made public, there were many in this particularly racially and ethnically diverse part of Portland who cried out in protest and alarm. As far as we can tell, their voices were not heard downtown in City Hall by a City Council without any members representing their part of town, and the Council seemed to ignore the statistical evidence of what such a decision would lead to in East Portland. Now, very swiftly, it has indeed led to a drastic increase in random and targeted gun violence, and a sharp rise in homicide by gunfire, in Outer East Portland. Those who follow the online newspaper serving that area – www.eastPDXnews.com – have seen this documented, although we imagine that the members of the Portland City Council have not been among them.

Our quaint and outdated form of city government provides no geographical representation of the city at large, and it appears to us that the current Council primarily focuses on Downtown Portland. Probably, based on their number of visits there, the Counselors would have had no cause or interest to follow the news in Outer East Portland. Not only are there now abruptly many more shooting incidents, and deaths by gunfire, compared to when the GRVT was still responding to them, but there are now clear signs that those committing these incidents feel totally free to do so – one recent single shooting incident, which didn't even result in a fatality, involved the firing of in excess of 150 bullets at a single location in a residential area, near a college. 150 bullets. To be specific, it appears that this particular fusillade of bullets may have been retaliation for another shooting nearby four days earlier: On Saturday, July 27, a 19-year-old whose given name was apparently "Mister Ford" was shot several times and died on the pavement near apartments on N.E. 87th Avenue, north of Glisan Street, and adjacent to Multnomah University.

Just four days afterward, at about 11 p.m., that hailstorm of bullets flew in the 600 Block of N.E. 87th Avenue. A police spokesperson reported that, "One round struck an adult female victim in an arm; officers applied a tourniquet, and she was transported to the hospital by ambulance with what are believed to be non-life threatening injuries." No other injuries were reported at that time, but officers later found that some of the bullets had struck at least eight occupied apartments and seven vehicles.

We are not cherry-picking this incident. There have been many others like it – sometimes several per day – since the Portland Police Bureau Gun Violence Reduction Team was disbanded. This was simply the one with the most bullets fired. Residents of Outer East Portland are beginning to talk publicly about moving away from where they live, in fear of their lives; and some recently have already done so. Portland residents, no matter in what part of the city they live, and regardless of race, creed, color, religion, and sexual orientation, are entitled to protection from violence and the risk of personal harm – and it is clear that in Outer East Portland this right has little importance to the Portland City Council. Even with this explosion of gun violence as a result of their action, there seems to be – as far as we can tell – an indifference to it, despite the outcome now being clearly documented.

There is, appearing with this editorial, a graph of homicides in the City of Portland – before and after the disbanding of the GVRT. There is no subtlety or nuance in just what happened when the Gun Violence Reduction Team was withdrawn from the streets of our city. This graph was prepared by the Portland Police Association, which has its own point of view, but the graph is composed of documented incidents from city records.

Bear in mind the graph just shows the trend in homicides. There has been an even sharper and higher rise in shootings in which there were no deaths. It's becoming a shooting gallery out there in Outer East Portland, and it's now moving west – we report two shooting incidents west of 82nd in this issue of THE BEE. This sharp rise in shootings is not news to the people in that part of Portland – among them are many of the ethnic minorities and immigrants who have come to our city. Some came here as refugees, seeking peace and freedom. Now they face fear and violence. People – residents of the City of Portland – are injured and dying by gun violence. We hope the Portland City Council, confronted with this evidence, will reconsider their decision to disband the Gun Violence Reduction Team.

And, whether the City Council takes the necessary step to restore it or not, it seems clear that it is past time to update our quaint and unrepresentative form of city government. This is the second time THE BEE has had to write an editorial, recently, calling for such reform.

We live in one of the 25th largest metropolitan areas in the country, and we are still governed by only five individuals, elected with no mandate for geographical representation, whose personal agendas have a disproportionately large effect on the city, its Bureaus, and all of its services, and all of its residents. It is time for Portland residents throughout the city, and not just Downtown, to have much more of a say in the form of government they live under.


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