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The sound of gunfire is becoming increasingly familiar in Portland as shootings and homicides hit new records not seen since 1987, with no signs of slowing down, as two people were killed in a shooting Sunday.
The Portland Police Bureau (PPB) arrested a 45-year-old man on murder charges in connection with the deaths of two people in an apartment in the Old Town neighborhood early Sunday morning.
PPB did not immediately release details about the events leading up to the shooting, but did specify that the two victims are expected to be the 71st and 72nd homicides of 2021 in Portland.
Arrested and Charged
Michael S. VanDomelen, of Portland, was charged and booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center on two counts of murder in the first degree.
Around 6:25 a.m., local authorities responded to reports of shooting inside an apartment complex in the area. Once they arrived, the police found two victims who had already been declared dead at the scene by paramedics.
Police detained the suspect, VanDomelen, on Sunday morning. The victims, a man and a woman, will be identified later after the Oregon State Medical Examiner confirms their names and contacts their families.
The shooting is just one of many others, as the Portland Police Department is struggling to keep up with local crime amid an acute staff shortage and budget cuts following calls to ‘defund the police’ ‘: City leaders cut $ 27 million from the police budget in 2020, and crime shows no signs of slowing down.
Last Tuesday, at least 100 self-proclaimed anarchists rampaged through the city, torched garbage containers, smashed windows and caused $ 500,000 in damage. Police say 35 separate locations were targeted while the force was inactive due to a new state law restricting how law enforcement can respond to riots.
At the same time, Oregon’s largest city is also implementing novel solutions aimed at improving safety, including adding traffic barrels to prevent drive-by shootings and suspending minor traffic stops so officers can focus on threats. immediate.
So far this year, Portland has had about 1,000 shootings, 314 people have been injured by bullets and firearms have accounted for three-quarters of homicides. Police attribute much of the shooting to gangs, fights and killings in retaliation, but they also affect bystanders.wikipedia
Nationally, homicides increased by nearly 30 percent from 2019 to 2020, according to FBI data. Yet in Portland, deadly violence is increasing at a faster rate than in almost all major cities, with homicides rising 83 percent in 2020.
Portland has seen more homicides in 2021 than some larger cities, including San Francisco, and twice as many murders as its larger neighbor, Seattle. Other western cities hardest hit include the Albuquerque, New Mexico metropolitan area, which has about 679,000 residents and has seen a record 97 homicides this year.
Portland police have fought to quell the violence with a force of 128 officers below their authorized strength. Since August 2020, about 200 officers have left the department. Many, in their exit interviews, cited low morale, a lack of support from city officials, and the exhaustion of months of racial justice protests, often ending in columns of tear gas before largely disappearing. since the summer.
‘We are running on smoke. There is no way we can fully and properly investigate all of these shootings, ” said Daryl Turner, executive director of the Portland Police Union.
Turner says the city will need to hire 840 officers over the next five years to implement proper community policing and keep Portland safe.
In addition to staffing, Turner said the increase in violence is directly related to budget cuts.
A mob amok through the streets on October 12 and shattered windows, set fires and sprayed graffiti messages like ‘anarchy means attack
Amid booming calls to withdraw funds from the police, city leaders cut $ 27 million from the police budget last year, $ 11 million due to the budget crisis caused by the pandemic, a decision Turner says. that has cost lives.
Officials also dissolved a specialized unit focused on curbing gun violence, which had long faced criticism for disproportionately targeting people of color.
Insufficient human resources and funds have forced officials to implement non-traditional ideas in an attempt to curb armed violence.
More barrels of traffic were installed this month in a southeast Portland neighborhood plagued by shootings, some involving high-speed drivers. City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty said they hope to curb activity in gun violence hot spots and make it more difficult “to both commit a crime and get away with it.”
“This is a get down to business situation where the government needs to dig deep, think creatively,” she said Hardesty. “From the police to community organizations to infrastructure design, we all have a role to play in this emergency.”
In the country’s main cities, parts of the police budgets are being recovered. From Los Angeles to New York, some law enforcement departments that suffered massive budget cuts, amid nationwide protests over George Floyd’s murder last year, prompted local leaders to restore funding or implement new programs or units. .
In Portland, money is available for public safety in the form of an excess general fund balance of $ 60 million.
The City Council can use half of the money, which came from business taxes last year and was much more than planned, however you like. It has not yet been determined whether a significant portion will go to the police office.
“We have to realize that everyone has a role, from community members to the police department,” Irving said. “No entity is going to solve armed violence.”
Michael S. VanDomelen Quick and Facts
- Two people in the Old Town neighborhood of Portland died in a shooting Sunday
- If the two deaths are registered as homicides, they would be the 71st and 72nd in the city so far in 2021, surpassing Portland’s record of 70 set in 1987
- Portland has had about 1,000 shootings with 314 people injured by bullets so far in 2021
- Homicides increased by nearly 30% across the country from 2019 to 2020, FBI data shows
- Police have blamed the rise of deadly crime on staff shortages and budget cuts