PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland community leaders are pleading for peace in the city streets as a summer wracked by violence comes to a close.
Portland is on track for a record number of homicides this year with gunfire breaking out nearly every day and night. So far in 2021, the city has seen 909 shootings and 63 homicides, according to the Portland Police Bureau.
Community leaders gathered on Tuesday’s International Day of Peace to launch the Portland Peace Initiative.
“We want to feel safe in Portland and, the truth is, many of us do not feel safe,” said former Senator Avel Gordly.
The initiative’s goal is to reach as many community groups as possible through a series of listening sessions that will be professionally moderated. Pastor JW Matt Hennessee of the Inter-Faith Peace & Action Collaborative (IPAC) said they hope this will be a start to bringing the community together to end gun violence and re-imagine public safety in Portland.
Hennessee said it will take investment in community groups and investment in the PPB so they have more resources to prevent and deter shootings.
“It’s time we look in a broader way at what we do when it comes to this because the fight is not going away, the issue is getting worse and we must not walk around as if it is not,” he said.
While Hennessee says IPAC wants more policing — he understands the concerns many in the community have.
“Every one of us in this room has seen too much murder on the street… too much mistrust between community and police,” he said. “Those who are concerned about the tactics of the [Portland] Police Bureau in the past — we feel the same way.”
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler recently said he has had two work sessions with Community Safety Work Plan leaders, who are working on a Community Safety Transition Plan. That plan has three priorities: refocus, reform and restaff.
Wheeler said he is busy hiring additional staff for the bureau, saying that the Focused Intervention Team will be fully staffed by November. One new program is a ‘Retire, Rehire’ program, which would allow around 80 officers set to retire to instead continue working.
IPAC says it also backs the city’s investment in community groups and park rangers to help prevent violence.