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Portland Mayor announces emergency declaration, new plan to address gun violence

Mayor Ted Wheeler says the city will focus on community-based outreach to the people most likely to commit gun violence to curb the historic increase in shootings.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler declared a state of emergency to respond to the city's historic gun violence crisis on Thursday. Wheeler's emergency declaration and new plan comes shortly after the city received a third-party data analysis of shootings and gun-related deaths in Portland between 2019 and 2021.

That study, Portland Homicide Problem Analysis by California Partnership for Safe Communities, showed homicides more than doubled between 2019 and 2021 and non-fatal shootings more than tripled.

Mayor Wheeler said the emergency declaration and the city's "Safer Summer PDX" plan would centralize city resources and prioritize community outreach to the small number of people who account for most of the shootings in Portland.

"Emergency declarations can get results that the status quo just can't," Wheeler said Thursday.

RELATED: Police oversight group recommends Portland use ShotSpotter in all 'high risk areas for gun violence'

The listed goal of the plan is to reduce shootings and gun killings by at least 10% over the next two years.

KGW asked if a reduction of 10% is a high enough goal to counteract the sharp increase of shootings in Portland, which includes a 207% increase in rate of gun violence since 2019, per the CPSC study.

"We hope to do much, much better than that, but it’s also a statement of acknowledgement that there are many factors that come into play," Wheeler said. "It’s a complex issue and it’s going to take time and energy, particularly if you’re talking about one-on-one interventions with that group of individuals who are likely to engaged in or impacted by gun violence. So, I see that as a floor, as a baseline.”

Wheeler and city leaders said they will use community-based outreach workers, not law enforcement, to handle interventions with people in targeted areas of the city.

"We need credible messengers, and that's a part of this plan," Wheeler said.

RELATED: Mayor Wheeler appoints team to prevent and address gun violence in Portland

City leaders said focusing on personal outreach and interventions represents a proactive approach to the gun violence crisis, rather than focusing on arrests or prosecution.

The CPSC study found about 200 people in Portland were responsible for the majority of the city's shootings between 2019 and 2021.

It also found most of Portland's shootings are "group-related," which includes gang involvement and activity.

"Ultimately, at the end of the day, what we will be judged by in those neighborhoods is, 'Do they see a decrease in gun violence?' If they do, they know the program is working," Wheeler said. "If they don’t, they’ll know it isn’t, and they’ll hold us accountable for it — I guarantee you that."

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