Mayor Wheeler, city officials aim to curb spike in summer shootings in 2024

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Mayor Ted Wheeler and other city leaders are calling for a safer summer in Portland after several years of escalating violence.

“Historically, we have seen an increase in gun violence during warmer months,” Wheeler said. “And it’s crucial that we work proactively and collaboratively to prevent that spike.”

With the season right around the corner, Mayor Wheeler and Police Chief Bob Day announced collaborative efforts to prevent gun violence during a press conference on the “Safer Portland” initiative Thursday morning.

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Wheeler shared new crime data which told an encouraging story in which the city has shown a drop in gun related-violence since the start of 2024. In fact, the total number of shootings is the lowest on record since 2020.

Still, the city leaders said they aim to curb another spike in summer shootings.

The update comes after Mayor Wheeler declared a gun violence state of emergency in July of 2022 while launching the “Safer Summer PDX Plan,” which helped fund 20 community organizations that specialized in violence prevention.

The city then launched the Ceasefire program the following summer, engaging in outreach with community members who were most at risk of becoming victims and perpetrators of gun violence.

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“It’s crucial to understand that shooting incidents and injuries often lead to retaliatory shootings and violence, perpetuating the cycle of harm of our community,” Ceasefire Program Manager Sierra Ellis said. “This is precisely the type of violence that ceasefire aims to address by intervening with those at the highest risk of becoming a victim or perpetrator of gun violence.”

Of the 67 people assessed through the program, 60 have been referred to services. The mayor says the combined efforts are paying off.

“As of April 30, 2024, all homicides are down by 7% from 2023 and 16% from the prior three years,” he said.

According to city data, deadly shootings are down 23% from 2023 and 29% over the last three years. Total shootings are down 18% from last year and 28% from the three years prior.

Those improvements continue with reported car thefts down 44%, robberies down 29%, and vandalism down 56% in Quarter One this year, compared to last.

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To continue momentum, the mayor said the Portland Police Bureau is continuing to bolster its Focused Intervention Team – hiring 32 new officers this year and adding four new members and a sergeant to patrol with the PPB Central Bike Squad.

“Although we’re making progress, the toll that violence takes on our community remains unacceptably high,” Mike Myers, who will serve as the community safety transition director, said. “We must always remember that we’re talking about people’s lives. Gun violence has a lasting impact and perpetuates a cycle of pain and trauma, specifically in the black community.”

The city is also offering $500,000 in grants to fund community organizations focused on violence prevention. Those are expected to be awarded in June 2024.

Meanwhile, applications for the Safer Portland grants close Friday, May 17.

Watch the full press conference in the video above.

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