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Portland Police Shuffling Staff to Tackle Rising Gun Violence

Wednesday, June 03, 2015


Portland Police are shifting resources to its Tactical Operations Division to address rising gun violence in the City of Portland. 

"Recent gun violence has gravely impacted our community and is a reminder to police that we must remain fluid in our response. As with other spikes in gun violence, we must respond with additional officers to help reduce incidents," said Chief Lawrence P. O'Dea, III. "However, this remains a complex issue, and it will take all of our partners as well as community members to impact gun violence long-term. Enforcement can only be one side of this response. We need to focus on engaging youth in a holistic, community-wide approach. The Police Bureau is committed to ensuring that positive community engagement is a core element to furthering the public safety response to gun violence." 

Six police officer positions are permanently being added to the Gang Enforcement Team (GET). These positions are being reallocated to GET from each of the three precincts' Neighborhood Response Teams (NRT) and Street Crimes Units (SCU). While this impacts the work being done by NRT and SCU, it has the least impact to patrol operations, according to police. 

The six new officers will be selected based on their training, experience, and desire to work to reduce gun violence and their commitment to building relationships with the community, according to the Portland Police Bureau. A Crime Analyst is also being assigned to focus specifically on gang and gun violence. 

The Detective Division Homicide and Cold Case Homicide Details will review and follow-up on unsolved gang-related homicides. Additionally, the Youth Services Division (YSD) and the Traffic Division will provide operational support on an as needed basis, and police will continue to work with the Mayor's Office of Youth Violence Prevention.  

Portland Police ask anyone with information about gang or gun crimes to provide information to Police Bureau's Tactical Operations Division at 503-823-4106 or [email protected]

Crime Stoppers of Oregon is offering a minimum $250 cash reward to anyone who reports a convicted felon or a juvenile in possession of a firearm and tipsters can remain anonymous. Leave a Crime Stoppers tip online, text CRIMES (274637) and in the subject line put 823HELP, followed by your tip, or call 503-823-HELP (4357) and leave your tip information. Click HERE to download the Crime Stoppers App for the iPhone or Droid. 


Related Slideshow: 5 Oregon Gun Facts That Might Surprise You

Oregon is the 28th best state in the union for gun owners, according to an analysis by Guns & Ammo magazine that describes Oregon as being, overall, a friendly place for gun owners with relatively few restrictions on firearms. These facts give some insight as to why.  

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1. Mental Health Issues

In Oregon, people who've lost their gun rights because of mental health issues can petition to get them back. After the 2007 Virginia Tech Shooting, Congress passed legislation that changed how background checks are conducted. It also contained a provision that required states to have a mechanism to allow people who had been barred from firearm ownership because of a mental health issue to petition to have this right restored. 

In Oregon, the Psychiatric Security Review Board (PSRB)conducts relief hearings to determine if someone should again be permitted to own guns.

However, the number of people who've had their rights restored is pretty small.

Juliet Follansbee, the executive director of the PSRB, says only three people have applied to have their gun rights restored, all of which were successful. 

Penny Okamoto, a board member and spokesperson for gun-control advocate Ceasefire Oregon, says this is a sensible and fair process.

“I think it's a terrible mechanism,” says Kevin Starrett, director of the Oregon Firearms Federation. Starrett says diagnoses of mental illness are too broadly applied and cover individuals who've recovered from drug problems. 

Photo Credit: Helga Weber via Compfight cc

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2. Background Checks

If you want to buy a gun from a friend or relative, you don't need to undergo a background check. The same applies if you want to buy a gun from your neighbor down the block or even someone you encounter randomly on the street. Once you have that gun, you don't need to get a permit or register it. 

Photo Credit: Svadilfari via Compfight cc

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3. Concealed Carry

If you want a concealed handgun, you apply at your local sheriff's office, pass a background check, prove you're at least 21, demonstrate that you're competent with the weapon and you're good to walk around strapped. Oregon is a “shall-issue” state, meaning that if you pass these requirements, your local sheriff shall issue you a permit. “May-issue” states, like California, are different in that applicants need to provide a compelling reason to have a permit. 

However, if you're wondering if someone you know owns a concealed weapon permit, there's no way to find out. In 2011, the Oregon Legislature passed a law with bipartisan support that exempted concealed weapon permits from Oregon's public records law. 

Photo Credit: Mojave Desert via Compfight cc

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4. Loaded Guns in Public

Earlier this year, Georgia lawmakers passed legislation, referred to as the “guns everywhere” bill, that allowed guns just about everywhere, including bars and churches. Oregon has been way ahead of Georgia on this for years. In Oregon, it was already totally legal to take a gun into a bar or a church (if the property owner didn't object).

According to a description of Oregon gun laws on the National Rifle Association's (NRA) website, it is unlawful to possess a loaded firearm in a public building, which includes hospitals, capitol buildings, schools, colleges, courthouses or city hall. Exceptions are made if you have a concealed carry permit.

“The irony is that you can't carry a sign into the Oregon State Capitol building, but you can carry a loaded AR-15,” says Okamoto, who notes that having a concealed carry permit also allows people to openly carry large, loaded weapons. 

Portland, however, differs from the rest of the state. Last year, the Oregon Supreme Court upheld a Portland ordinance that banned loaded weapons in public, except for police officers and those with concealed weapons permits. 

“In lots of places no one would give it a second glance,” says Starrett, noting that guns are openly carried in Switzerland and Israel. “It's all a matter of perceptions, and open carry has really offended people in Portland, but in Portland a lot of fat ugly people can ride around on bicycles.”

Photo Credit: Ewan-M via Compfight cc

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5. Guns and Suicide

If you own a gun, you're more likely to kill yourself than someone else. According to Ceasefire Oregon, which cited data from the Oregon Health Authority, 417 Oregonians were killed by guns in 2011, slightly down from 458 in 2010 and up from 413 in 2009. For each of those years, more than 80 percent of those individuals killed by a gun committed suicide. 

“When people decide to commit suicide, it's an impulsive act,” says Okamoto. She says that having more background checks in place could save lives because someone considering suicide might have second thoughts while going through the process. 

Photo Credit: ~Steve Z~ via Compfight cc


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