At least 15 people were killed in Portland in July, the highest number of fatal shootings or stab wounds in a single month since the 1980s, according to authorities.
Police Chief Chuck Lovell dealt with last month’s violence, which ended on Friday after a 150-hour shooting in an apartment building in the city. So far this year, 24 people in Portland have died in murder.
“It is very important to know that many people have been killed in such a short time,” Lovell said on Thursday according to Portland’s KATU. “These figures were not acceptable.”
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To solve the latest crimes, Lovell said the police agency pulled officers from an “already reduced patrol”
“Our job, number one for us, is public safety and the preservation of life. “So it’s us, we’ll take a few more people to the detective department to help follow up and do some investigations about them,” Lovell said. “It is incumbent on us as general security personnel and police to go out and still do that work.”
He pointed out how the agency was forced to cut its violence reduction team under the leadership of the City Council, which has made their job more difficult.
The team of 34 members was split on July 1 after budget cuts to police units that reportedly targeted a disproportionate number of black people in traffic jams, according to The Oregonian. It was the first month without the device in more than a decade.
“What was really lost was the follow-up, picking up video, contacting people,” Lovell said.
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Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty pushed for the dissolution of the Gun Violence Reduction Team, which at the time was called a gang supply unit, according to the station. She did so after a city audit in 2018 which found that African Americans made up 59 percent of the unit’s traffic stop in 2016.
“I do not think it’s a staffing issue, and no matter how often they say they are overworked and underpaid, the reality is that Portland police have for a long time decided what to investigate and what not to do,” Hardesty said.
The shootings also increased in July compared with the same time last year. There were a total of 63 firearms last month compared to 28 in July 2019, according to the police station.
As for the officers’ response times, it took the police almost 15 minutes to respond to a shot that fell this year, compared to just under seven minutes last year, the station reported. The police had told KATU that the ongoing nightly demonstrations in the city had strained the ministry’s resources.
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Murder, assault, burglary and vandalism are also up compared to last year, according to The Oregonian. At the same time, total personal crimes and property crimes are down from previous years, the police say.