Claire Rush, Associated Press, July 21, 2022
Gripped by gun violence that’s affecting cities across the nation, the mayor of Portland, Oregon, on Thursday issued a new emergency declaration with the goal of reducing gun killings by at least 10% over the next two years.
“Emergency declarations can get results the status quo cannot,” Wheeler said during a briefing at City Hall. “We will not stop until the gun violence stops.”
The number of shootings in Oregon’s biggest city soared above 670 in the first half of 2022 – ahead of the pace for the same period last year.
Guns have been fueling a surge of deadly violence in Portland in a trend that’s been playing out across the U.S. Firearm homicide rates nationwide jumped 35% between 2019 and 2020, the highest rate in more than 25 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Portland, which was roiled by near-nightly Black Lives Matter protests for months in 2020, cut the city’s police budget by $15 million that year. But in November it reversed course, funneling $5.2 million back to the police department as homicides skyrocketed.
Wheeler’s emergency declaration came in response to a report released by the Portland Police Bureau and the California Partnership for Safe Communities, a nonprofit that advises cities on reducing gun violence. The report found that last year Portland had a homicide rate of 13.5 per 100,000 people, roughly double the nationwide rate.
The number of homicides in Portland surpassed more populous cities like San Francisco and Boston. The Oregon city had twice as many slayings compared to its larger Pacific Northwest neighbor Seattle.
Portland reported a record 89 homicides last year, a 65% increase compared to 2020, according to the Portland Police Bureau. The vast majority of those homicides involved a firearm.
Shootings in Portland disproportionately affect communities of color. Black people make up just 6% of the city’s population, but account for nearly 39% of homicide victims.