Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has been highly critical of the response of federal agents to riots in the city. However, last month’s crime statistics show there’s reason to be concerned.
Recently released crime statistics for July show at least 15 people killed in Portland during the month. Additionally, authorities say it was the city’s deadliest single month since the 1980s. At least 24 murders occurred in the city this year. Therefore, July’s figures represent a sharp jump in fatalities. The increasing frequency of violence in the city is leading many residents to question the city’s soft-handed police response to increasingly brazen criminal activity.
Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell commented on the violence at a press conference last Thursday. He spoke to reporters following a shooting at an apartment building where at least 150 rounds of ammunition were fired. “That’s very concerning to know that that many people have been killed in such a short period of time,” Lovell said in reference to July’s homicide numbers. “These numbers were not acceptable.”
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A Steady Increase in Violence
Violence has been steadily escalating in the city since protests over the death of George Floyd began several months ago. However, the city has taken a soft-handed approach to counter the uptick in criminal activity. In fact, the city council is pushing efforts to further defund the police force in spite of the surging violence.
The city council disbanded the Portland police department’s Gun Violence Reduction Team on July 1. The 34-member gun violence team has been in place for more than a decade. Shootings also increased by 225% in July after the scrapping of the unit. Local officials decided to disband the unit in response to a 2018 city audit. This audit found that the unit stopped a disproportionate amount of African Americans in 2016.
Now, Portland’s understaffed police force is left to clean up after the city’s deadliest month in decades with little support from local politicians. Police Chief Lovell says the department has to pull officers from its “already diminished patrol unit” to assist with follow-up investigations relating to the homicides.
City’s Police Remain Committed
Despite the difficulties, including the eviction of federal agents in the area, Portland police remain committed to their duty. “Our job, number one for us, is public safety and preservation of life. So we are, we’re going to resource some more people to the detective division to help follow up and do some investigation on those,” said Lovell. “It’s incumbent upon us as public safety professionals and police officers to go out and still do that work.”
Wheeler and the city council continue to explore new and creative ways to undermine law enforcement. While this happens, law-abiding residents need to cope with escalating violence and deteriorating police response. According to local news outlets, the average police response time to shots fired reports increased to 15 minutes this year, more than double last year’s totals. Add that to the aforementioned increases in shootings and homicides, and you have all the makings of a major crime wave.
Despite the hard data, Wheeler and the Portland city council remain committed to their anti-police agenda. They spurned assistance from federal law enforcement officials and gave rioters a freehand to vandalize and loot local businesses. With such a weak-handed response from local government, it’s no surprise that Portland’s criminal elements are feeling emboldened. Unfortunately, the real losers in Portland’s political pandering are the law-abiding citizens and business owners that have been victimized by the city’s crime wave.