Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We’ve seen gun violence spike across Multnomah County over the past year, with the number of shootings nearly doubling compared to previous years, and 48 individuals killed this year alone. This sharp increase in violence is devastating the lives of our neighbors and the families of those lost. For those of you who are frequent readers of this newsletter, you know this crisis is very important to me.
As a result of this increase our investigatory and prosecutorial resources are also stretched thin and quickly approaching a breaking point. The Multnomah County District Attorney’s (DA) office has prosecuted 285 firearm-related cases this year, nearly doubling last year’s 152 cases, and dwarfing 2019’s 51 cases. This surge is resulting in fewer resources for investigating and prosecuting other serious crimes.
Today, the Multnomah County board took action to approve funding for the hiring of 4 deputy district attorneys and 2 investigators to prosecute those suspected of gun crimes and other serious offenses. These additional resources will help ensure that we take those who are found guilty off our streets. This will slow the retaliatory shootings and other violent crimes we have witnessed. We know from ballistic evidence, that many guns are used in multiple crimes, and tracking down those weapons and prosecuting those who used them can significantly curtail gun violence.
This increase in shootings is taking place in nearly every part of Multnomah County, but are concentrated in areas that have also experienced displacement and disinvestment. Last week I joined the City of Portland’s Office of Violence Prevention to tour several recent sites of shootings, including Old Town, Dawson Park, and Woodlawn Park. I was heartbroken to learn the stories of those killed, and the impact their deaths had on their parents, children, coworkers, and friends. Every single one of these tragic incidents can cause ripples that spread across our community - including retaliation that furthers the cycle of violence.
Alongside us on our tour was a staff member from POIC who works daily to prevent acts of violence by establishing bonds of trust and support for young people at risk of gun violence. He talked about his work mentoring young people who may not have any other positive influences in their lives, and the heartbreak he feels when he visits the site of a shooting and has to help families grapple with unimaginable loss.
Programs like his are the key to ending these cycles of violence, which is why I fought for budget investments this year that will increase our community’s capacity to provide these vital services.
As an east Portland resident, my family and I are acutely aware of the toll this violence takes on our neighborhoods. Family events at my house have been interrupted by the sound of gunshots, and shootings become a constant source of tension and stress.
Recently, I was touring Gateway Discovery Park, one of my favorite neighborhood parks and talking with Cody Goldberg, the founder of Harper’s Playground, a local nonprofit that designs and constructs playgrounds that are accessible to children and families with disabilities. This park is a magnificent communal space, where families should feel safe to come together, but in recent months it has become a site of frequent shootings, including one recent mass shooting that left four shot and one dead.
Gateway Discovery Park is an illustration of our community’s current state: we are a welcoming, inclusive community that has great opportunities ahead of us, but we’re grappling with a gun violence crisis that’s taken far too much from us already. We need to come together to do the hard work of restoring trust in our public safety system, investing in our communities with programs that set people on a positive path, and allocating the resources and services that we need to prevent, investigate, and prosecute acts of gun violence.
The action we took today will help, but there is more work to be done. I look forward to updating you on additional actions soon.
PS: Last week, the District Attorney released a new gun violence prosecutions dashboard, where you can find trends, charges, incident locations, and other data. You can access the dashboard here.
Expanding Portland Street Response
This morning I sent a letter to my colleagues on Portland’s City Council voicing my strong support for increasing funding for the Portland Street Response program. Expanding this non-police response program, which engages those experiencing homelessness, mental health, and addiction challenges, will help us intervene in non-violent situations, and also free up police to work on other issues. The need for Portland Street Response has never been greater across our community, as we grapple with the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, a surge in gun violence, and a homelessness crisis that has resulted in thousands of individuals with mental health challenges living unsheltered on our streets. This program is a critical tool in our efforts to address these challenges. You can find my letter to the City Council here.
Update on Rental Assistance
Today, Multnomah County also approved an additional $19.5 million in emergency rental assistance funds. These additional resources will go towards keeping more families housed by preventing evictions and increasing the number of staff processing rental assistance applications, so that we can get through our backlog as fast as possible. The need for Portland Street Response has never been greater across our community, as we grapple with the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, a surge in gun violence, and a homelessness crisis that has resulted in thousands of individuals with mental health challenges living unsheltered on our streets. This program is a critical tool in our efforts to address these challenges. Multnomah County renters who are unable to pay their rent are protected from eviction for 90 days if they apply for rent assistance and provide documentation of their application to their landlords. These protections include renters who owe current or any back-due rent accrued between April 2020 and June 2021. Click here to learn more and begin your rental assistance application.
If you or someone you know receive an eviction notice, even if you have already applied for rental assistance, call 211 immediately.
Walking for Climate Action
Last weekend I joined Families for Climate and Oregon Walks for a Steptember walk through the Lents neighborhood. The walk, part of a series of walks organized during the month of September, was focused on the deadly impact of heat islands, where a lack of tree coverage and an abundance of concrete radiate heat and increase temperatures. Temperatures in Lents during June’s deadly heat dome event reached 125 degrees Fahrenheit, the hottest recorded in Portland.
We talked about how to mitigate these heat islands, such as planting large yard trees. Importantly, Portland Parks and Recreation is offering free trees this fall. You can find out more about this opportunity and register for free trees here.
I was proud to bring forth a proclamation declaring September 15-October 15th Latinx Heritage Month in Multnomah County. I was honored that my good friends and leaders in the Latinx community, Tony DeFalco, Reyna Lopez, and Victoria Lara, joined me in celebration. This year’s proclamation focused on the resilience of Latinx communities, who have been faced with very real and painful hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Latinx people are more at-risk of being infected with COVID-19, yet are the least vaccinated racial or ethnic group in the county. Latinx people also make up a disproportionate share of our frontline workforce as agricultural workers, child-care workers, nurses, and food workers. These industries have been heavily impacted by the economic downturn, climate change, and the global pandemic. Thankfully, Latinx people have demonstrated tremendous commitment and perseverance. I am also encouraged by the growing population of young Latinx people who are finding their voice and stepping up to call for what is best for their community. Our future is bright, and I am proud to fight for this community and uplift their incredible work. You can watch the recording of the proclamation here or read about the event here.
Constituent Spotlight: Lorena Mora