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Portland police have responded to nearly 200 shootings in 2021 so far

To address a rise in shootings, PPB created the Enhanced Community Safety Team to better respond to shootings in progress

PORTLAND, Ore. — Memorials full of flowers, balloons and candles left on sidewalks surround the photos of victims lost to gun violence throughout Portland.

In North Portland near the 10000 block of North Burr Avenue, a memorial for a 20 year-old man shot and killed in December still stands, and it's the same spot a 17-year-old was shot and seriously wounded on March 4.

Near Northeast Alberta Street and 52nd Avenue in the Cully neighborhood, flowers and candles adorn the sidewalk remembering two people who were shot and killed Monday night.

Debbie Lusk lives nearby and says her neighbors called to ask if they heard something. "They said it sounded like a bunch of BB gun shots going off, one after the other," she said. 

Lusk has lived in the neighborhood for the last three years and says it's normally a quiet neighborhood.

"It's really scary that it happened so close to us and to our neighbors," she said. 

In the first nine weeks of 2021, Portland police have responded to 196 shootings. They said 14 people have died from gun violence and 53 have been injured.

Gun violence more than doubled in 2020 compared to 2019. There were 389 shootings in 2019 and 892 in 2020.

RELATED: 2 killed in shooting in Northeast Portland's Cully neighborhood

To address the rise in shootings around the city, Portland police said multiple officers from the Enhanced Community Safety Team (ECST) would be on-duty to respond to shooting calls in progress and further investigate previous shootings.

"Responding to these scenes, I see the victims, I see the families, I see the gun violence tearing them apart," said Portland Police Sgt. Steve Wilbon.

He said Friday night was a relatively quiet night.

"We responded to a couple of shooting scenes or the report of shots called and assisted in looking for evidence in talking with folks that were on scene," Sgt. Wilbon said.

Wilbon was one of eight members of the team working Saturday night. The goal of the team is to increase the police presence in areas where shootings are more frequent and speak with community members to help solve crimes faster.

RELATED: Portland police announce new community safety team to investigate shootings

"The quicker we have leads, the further we can push an investigation on the front end and it draws us closer to suspects and closing investigations," Wilbon said.

The ECST does not replace the Gun Violence Reduction Team, which was disbanded in 2020, but Wilbon said it's a step in the right direction for both the police bureau and the city in addressing gun violence.

"Now that the numbers have skyrocketed, ECST is coming back to a point where we're expected to fill a void," Wilbon said, "It seems mathematically impossible to resolve it over one mission, over one weekend."

Sgt. Wilbon said the team's goal is to work with the community and find effective solutions to address gun violence.

"How do we reduce shootings, but do it in a way that's supported by the community. Do it in a way that's trusted by the community, but yet we're still effective in reducing gun violence."

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