Justice Center in Downtown Portland on May 28, 2022 Sofie Brandt/PSU Vanguard

How safe are we on this city’s streets?

Gun violence in Portland is becoming an increasing issue

It feels like living in Portland has increasingly become less safe. Over the last few years gun violence in Portland has increased, making the city a less secure place to live. 


According to Protect Portland, part of the Keep Portland Safe PAC sponsored by the Portland Police Association, “there were 388 shootings in 2019, 891 shootings in 2020, and in just the first half of 2021, there have been 567 shootings.”


How can we help but wonder what officials are doing about this? 


Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell has attempted to answer this question by reassigning detectives in the police bureau to help with the spike in homicides, with one example being his decision  to reassign detectives from the cold case division. This division usually investigates unsolved killings dating back to 1970, however all three members of the team have now been reassigned to help with the rise in gun-related homicides. 


This is a step in the right direction, but simply moving three officers will not alleviate the serious and deadly problem posed by gun violence. The city government needs to crack down with more gun regulation. Better gun regulation would help ensure firearms are not going into the hands of those who may go on to commit murders.  


In the wake of the terrible mass shootings these past weeks in Buffalo, NY and Uvalde, TX, this point is more poignant than ever. The issue of gun violence is more urgent and in the forefront of the national consciousness once again. It is because of events such as these that we need better solutions to combat the violence problem in Portland and across the rest of the country. 


There should be better background checks on people purchasing guns, because when anyone can buy firearms, events like these recent tragedies are bound to happen.


Recently, the Portland City Council has been doing more than just shuffling officers around. The City Council, along with the Portland Police Bureau, created the Focused Intervention Team, a specific sector of the bureau committed to addressing gun violence. This team is meant to replace the Gun Violence Reduction Team, which was disbanded in 2020 in the wake of the George Floyd protests, amid allegations of racial profiling. 


The program is still fairly new but results are promising, and since its implementation in Feb. 2021, the Focused Intervention Team has made 32 arrests and confiscated 19 firearms.


The creation of programs like the Focused Intervention Team should’ve been considered a long time ago—many lives could have been saved.


Clearly the police are trying, but what we have needed this whole time was a team to respond directly to this issue. In the meantime, one can only hope that the number of deaths due to gun-based violence both here in Portland and nationally will recede and that lives will be saved.