Portland’s ‘Gun Violence Task Force‘, previously the ‘Gang Enforcement Team’ is shut down….. gang crime “skyrockets”
‘Where are we headed?’ Portland’s record-setting year for murder fuels search for answers
PORTLAND, Ore. – Pastor J.W. Matt Hennessee, a longtime local anti-gun violence advocate, never expected to lose his own child to the bullets he has tried to stop for almost four decades.
So when he got a call on May 13, letting him know that his stepson Jalon Yoakum, 33, was the latest victim in an onslaught of violent crime, Hennessee felt numb.
“This isn’t something where I’m new to the table,” said Hennessee, 62, who has battled gun violence in Portland for 40 years. “But I hadn’t worried about it, hadn’t thought about it, and when that call came …”
His voice trailed off.
“It’s not going away,” Hennessee said. “Jalon was victim No. 31 and there’s been (36) more from May to October. Where are we headed?”
Crime is up all over the country, and has been since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. But there is a a certain sad irony in Portland, long considered a safe, desirable place to live. Already, the city has tallied 67 homicides for 2021, breaking a 34-year-old record of 66. Last year, 55 homicides was a 26-year high in the city.
The numbers alone are troubling, but even more worrisome when compared with other similarly sized cities, where violent crime numbers are considerably less, including Seattle and Boston. In Portland, long considered a liberal stronghold in America, some community leaders and officers feel that police defunding efforts in summer 2020 may have backfired, at least somewhat. With fewer officers on the street, violence has escalated significantly.
Portland’s gun violence problems can be traced back, at least partially, to the killing of George Floyd in May 2020. Floyd’s murder, at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, sparked a nationwide racial reckoning as hundreds of thousands took to the streets.
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