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

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler announced a new team to work with the city's Community Safety Division to address gun violence over the summer months.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler announced on Tuesday the city's latest move to address gun violence this summer by appointing a team to lead a new effort called 'Safer Summer PDX.'

The mayor's team, alongside the Portland Police Bureau, will work with city council, community groups and service providers to make sure they're approaching the issue of gun violence in a unified way, with a new emergency declaration forthcoming. 

"Here we are in mid-June, and we know that historically in the city of Portland, as well as in other cities around the county, gun violence escalates during the summer," said Wheeler in a video statement. "We do not want to be caught off-guard here, so we have already put a lot of planning and investments into the field reduce gun violence this summer."

RELATED: Portland woman organizes conference to help prevent gun violence among young men

The mayor welcomed Shareef Khatib, Julian Massenbur, and Kandel Ashley as team leaders to provide diverse, hands-on experience in addressing violence. Khatib, who was born in the U.K. to Palestinian immigrants, has over 13 years of experience implementing counter-violence projects around the world including in Afghanistan, Iraq, Malaysia and Nigeria. Massenbur, a Portland native, has worked on the communications team in the city's Office of Management and Finance since 2013. Ashley, also a Portland native, has been working for the city of Portland in the mayor's office since 2021.

KGW spoke with local community activists currently involved in gun violence prevention: Lionel Irving, gang veteran and CEO of Love is Stronger, Inc. and Dr. J.W. Matt Hennessee, pastor of Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church and head of the Interfaith Peace and Action Collaborative. Both say they're in support of Wheeler's plan, saying any kind of meaningful action can make a difference.

"We are trying to save these guys. We don’t want anyone to go to prison. We don’t want to have any more funerals," said Irving. "We want to celebrate wins and graduations and childbirths ... That’s what we’re fighting for, to save these young men and make them aware of the trauma and the effects of their actions that have our whole community."

"I am one that believes that this issue is not resolved by any one thing," said Hennessee. "I think it is resolved by a number of things coming together.

Speaking about the mayor's three team leaders he added, "My initial reaction is that these three people that the mayor has named all seem very, very credible and have good experience in dealing with issues of community concern, and that would be gun violence as well."

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