Portland’s police department recorded a record number of homicides in July, Oregon Live reports, as law enforcement struggled to handle both typical crime in the city and a growing, nightly protest that often turned into a riot.
The Portland Police department says that 15 people were killed in the city in July — a very low number for a major American city, but a far higher number than Portland has experienced in years passed. In fact, the number of July homicides is triple that of any single month period in the city going back nearly three decades.
So far, 2020 is on track to be one of Portland’s most violent years ever, with 24 homicides so far. There were 63 shootings in July, also nearly triple the number from the same period one year ago.
“While homicides, assaults, burglaries, and vandalism are up this year compared to last year, total person-to-person and property crimes are still down from prior years, according to bureau figures,” Oregon Live says. ‘Police Chief Chuck Lovell on Thursday said he’s very concerned about the heightened violence and is pulling officers from patrol to the detective division to help work on follow-up investigations.”
Part of the problem appears to be the “Defund the Police” efforts, part of a nationwide push to restrict law enforcement budgets and even disband police departments over concerns about racism and police brutality.
Portland’s City Council ordered the Portland Police Department’s Gun Violence Reduction Team to disband effective July 1st, and a shocking number of gun crimes followed — a correlation that Portland police officials say is impossible to ignore. The lack of resources left officers unable to follow up on gun violence, which may have led to an increase in homicides.
“What was really lost was the follow-up piece, picking up video, contacting people,” Portland’s Police Chief told Oregon Live.
Portland is just one of a number of major cities experiencing a summer crime wave, the result, experts say of both a decrease in law enforcement resources and long-term coronavirus-related lockdowns, which kept many people stuck inside from March until late May.
The Wall Street Journal reports Monday that the “homicide spike” is hitting cities from New York, New York, to Los Angeles, California, with some cities, like Chicago, Illinois, posting record-breaking homicide numbers even as national crime numbers are on the decline overall.
“A Wall Street Journal analysis of crime statistics among the nation’s 50 largest cities found that reported homicides were up 24% so far this year, to 3,612. Shootings and gun violence also rose, even though many other violent crimes such as robbery fell,” the outlet says.
The phenomenon is difficult to explain, the WSJ adds, but in many cases, is the result of an increase in gang violence — cycles of retribution, and in many cases, revenge, have sped up over the summer: “Police, researchers, mayors, and community leaders see a confluence of forces at work in the homicide spike. Institutions that keep city communities safe have been destabilized by lockdown and protests against police. Lockdowns and recession also mean tensions are running high and streets have been emptied of eyes and ears on their communities. Some attribute the rise to an increase in gang violence.”
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