The surge in Portland shootings is not just due to gangs

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Police estimate that about half of the shootings in Portland are gang related, while the other half are related to crime or conflict involving homeless people.

PORTLAND, Oregon – Record-breaking gun violence in Portland has made some people wonder: are these gang shootings? Police and community activists warn the problem is not that simple.

“There is a lot of gun violence in the city. Lots of people are armed and shootings take place for all kinds of reasons, ”said Lt. Ken Duilio of the Portland Police Department.

Police estimate that about half of the shootings in Portland are somehow gang related. An additional 25% are linked to crimes such as theft, road rage or domestic violence. The remaining 25% of the shootings in Portland involve conflict within the homeless community, which is relatively new. Overall, gun violence in Portland is on the rise.

“Over the past year or a year and a half, there has been an increase in all shootings – gang shootings and shootings without gangs,” Duilio said.

It is difficult to say how many shootings are linked to gangs.

In 2017, Portland Police stopped naming people as gang members, which the agency had done for about 20 years, after concerns that the labels would disproportionately affect minorities and create barriers for those. who try to avoid the gang lifestyle.

In addition, police and prosecutors do not follow the motives and the occasional factors of the shootings.

“The shootings today scare me,” explained Lionel Irving. Gang veteran helps keep young men out of gangs at his nonprofit Love is stronger.

Irving admits that the dynamics of gang shootings have changed in recent decades.

Nowadays, it is not uncommon for there to be multiple shooters, multiple guns, and a lot of shots.

RELATED: 57 Bullet Casings Found in East Portland; over 1,000 shootings reported this year

“What kind of guns they have today with 50 and 60 round drums?” We just ran with guns. Boom boom boom. Four or five hits and you’re out of there. Now these guys are there to shoot for a minute and a half, ”Irving explained.

Shooters don’t expect the typical “tit for one” revenge.

Instead, they’re actively looking for rivals, Irving explained. Sometimes even attacking associates of gang members, not just known gang members.

“Now it doesn’t matter if you’re with someone – active or not. If you’re with the wrong guy, it creates a dangerous environment, ”Irving said.

Experts have mixed ideas on what caused the spike in gun violence in Portland, as well as other U.S. cities. It could be the loss of support systems due to the pandemic, easy access to guns, or distrust of the police.

One thing is clear: the violence has disproportionately affected people of color.

“It’s a public health epidemic with them killing each other,” said Seneca Alexander, who lost her 17-year-old son of the same name in August. It is not clear if the shooting was gang related.

“I don’t understand how money is not being spent on this problem,” Alexander said.

Despite the increase in gun violence, Portland city leaders slashed the police budget last year. A specialized unit, the Gun Violence Reduction Team or GVRT, was disbanded after it was criticized for disproportionately targeting people of color.

“They broke up like everyone wanted them too and now we have shootings all over the place,” Alexander said.

RELATED: Rehiring Retired Police Officers, Expanding Street Response Team: Here’s What Portland’s Mayor And Police Chief Wants To Do To Curb Rise In Gun Violence

Portland Police are trying to create a new team of uniformed officers to spend more time on the streets, but after six months the team has not been formed. Some people get impatient with the city rulers.

“Decisions have to be made. We’ve said enough, ”said Irving of Love is Stronger. “We need action.”


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