Police agencies announce new gun violence collaboration
In response to a persistent and concerning rise in local gun violence, Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt and Acting U.S. Attorney Scott Erik Asphaug joined area law enforcement partners Tuesday to announce a new initiative to coordinate and focus local and federal law enforcement resources on investigating and prosecuting gun crimes in Multnomah County.
Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt
The Portland Police Bureau, Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office and Gresham Police Department entered into a voluntary agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice—to include the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco,
Firearms, and Explosives (ATF)—to deputize a small contingent of local law enforcement officers to focus exclusively on investigating gun violence and crimes involving firearms.
The federally-deputized officers will be assigned to the Metro Safe Streets Task Force, officials said. All of agencies involved have agreed that community and law enforcement programs designed to prevent gun violence before it occurs are critical to solving this public health crisis.
The new gun violence focus does not seek to preempt or replace any existing or proposed prevention-based gun violence reduction efforts. Rather, this new initiative is focused on investigating shootings after they occur and, where appropriate and supported by evidence, charging those responsible in state or federal court.
Officials said because the purpose of the collaboration between law enforcement is to interdict gun-related harm in our community, local law enforcement deputized under this new agreement will play no role in enforcing immigration law nor performing any crowd management duties at First Amendment demonstrations or events.
Participation in the Metro Safe Streets Task Force is meant to give local law enforcement a greater ability to coordinate investigations across both the federal and state judicial systems; access federal forensic testing and analysis resources; access needed equipment such as vehicles, additional police radios and computers; and receive funding for overtime costs not currently funded by local agencies.
Management of the Metro Safe Streets Task Force will be shared among the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon, Special Agent in Charge of the ATF Seattle Field Division, the Multnomah County Sheriff, and the chiefs of the Portland Police Bureau and Gresham Police Department.
The frequency of gun violence in Portland and greater Multnomah County demands an immediate response to quell the staggering statistics, officials said.
Officials said the cycle of this rampant gun violence is disproportionately impacting southeast Portland with the Hazelwood, Powellhurst-Gilbert, Centennial, and Lents neighborhoods caught in the crosshairs. From January of 2019 through February of 2021, both the Hazelwood neighborhood and Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood had more shootings in their individual communities than every neighborhood on the city’s west side combined.
Despite representing only 6% of the population of the Portland metro area, roughly 50% of the victims of gun violence injuries in Portland are Black, and this violence is disproportionately expressed within the Black community, officials added.
There is national evidence to show local organizations formed to confront violent crime and build stronger communities have a direct and significant role in reducing crime. Of note, research shows that every 10 additional community nonprofits in a city with 100,000 residents leads to a 12% reduction in the homicide rate, a 10% reduction in the violent crime rate, and a 7% reduction in the property crime rate.
Officials said the greatest potential for building stronger communities and controlling violent crime will be achieved by increasing the number of neighborhood organizations actively involved in these same efforts, by them developing programs for young people in our community and having dedicated staff to work against violence.