Homicides soar, PPB detective unit 'significantly understaffed'

Homicides soar, PPB detective unit 'significantly understaffed'

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland’s homicide rate just keeps climbing.

On Thursday, Portland police arrested Matthew Clement after he led authorities on a car chase into Clackamas County where deputies helped stop his car and take him into custody. Clement is accused of first-degree murder in the killing of Joshua Newell in Southeast Portland’s Mill Park neighborhood last week.

Police data shows homicides have more than doubled in Portland over the last five years. So far this year, the Portland Police Bureau has recorded a total of 66 homicides in the city. Detectives have solved 30 of those cases.

In 2020, 45% of the city’s 54 homicides went unsolved, 31% of the 32 homicides were unsolved the previous year, 34% of the 29 homicides were unsolved in 2018 and just 15% were unsolved in 2017 — a year that saw 26 total homicides.

PPB Officer Derek Carmon told KOIN 6 News the removal of the bureau’s Gun Violence Reduction Team in the summer of 2020 created a vacuum.

“It’s going to take time before the Focus Intervention Team and the Enhanced Crisis Intervention Team can get back up to speed and make a dent in this violence that’s occurring on the streets,” he said.

In the meantime, the majority of cases are going unsolved.

“I don’t have the words to convey to these families about how sorry I am for them and I know that every detective in the homicide division feels that way and I’m sure that they wish that they could do more,” said Carmon.

PPB has hired eight new homicide detectives in the last year but police say their team of 20 isn’t enough.

“When you compare it to other cities such as San Diego, per se, they had about 16 homicides and we were well above that,” said Carmon. “But they have 24 homicide detectives and three sergeants assigned to their homicide division. So our unit is significantly understaffed and it makes the job harder for the detectives.”

KOIN 6 News spoke with a mother whose son was shot and killed in 2019. Police are still looking for his killer. His mother said she’s emotionally broken and is still afraid to leave her home.

The Portland Police Association shared the following statement on Friday:

“We’ve heard from our community and even elected officials that they are frustrated at the lack of a clear and concise vision and plan for public safety in our city. While we don’t speak for the Police Bureau as an organization, we can and do speak for the rank and file officers protecting and serving Portland. In response, we’ve offered a simple plan and data-driven snapshot that clearly identifies the public safety priorities of our community, where we’re at with staffing, where we should be, and how we can get there.”

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