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7 homicides in December add to deadly toll of violence in Portland this year

A man's death on Christmas was ruled a homicide. It's the 53rd so far this year in Portland, the most since 1993.

PORTLAND, Ore. — A deadly year on the streets of Portland is ending with a violent month as there have been seven homicides so far in December.

“It’s tragic,” Portland police officer Derek Carmon said during a news conference Monday.

The latest homicide came on Christmas Day when a 33-year-old man was killed in a shooting in Northeast Portland. It was the 53rd homicide in Portland so far this year, police said, the most since 1993 when 54 people were killed.

The seven homicides in December are nearly double the total number of homicides in Portland between January and May, when there were four.

Advocates for the Gun Violence Reduction Team, which was disbanded in the summer as part of funding cuts to the police bureau during mass demonstrations over racial injustice and police brutality, have linked the move to the rise in violence. Mayor Ted Wheeler has pushed back on that claim.

Lt. Greg Pashley with the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) said it’s hard to attribute the rise in homicides to one factor.

“When it comes right down to it, there is a human being who wants to and is willing to take another human being’s life,” he said.

Pashley noted that homicide detectives have been working around the clock year-round and that it’s having an effect.

“That takes a toll on them,” he said.

There have been more than 850 shootings in Portland as of December, double the number reported in 2019. More than 200 people have been injured in shootings this year.

“We’re lucky there haven’t been more homicides,” officer Carmon said.

Carmon described staffing at PPB as lean as ever. He believes violent people are emboldened right now because they know police resources are stretched.

“They know that our resources are thin, but it’s just willingness to go out and want to be violent and want to hurt people,” he said. “Settle petty disputes with gunfire, and not care about who is down-range from that gunfire. We’ve seen innocent people get shot, and it’s terrible.”

That’s what reportedly happened when a 53-year-old woman was shot and killed in North Portland, near Legacy Emanuel hospital, earlier this month. 

Carmon said he wants the community to be more involved with PPB next year. He believes that will lead to fewer lives lost in 2021.

“Tell us what you need from us,” Carmon said. “How can we best assist you? And how can you help us solve these crimes? We need their help. It’s not just a police issue, it’s a community issue.”

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