New report shows sharp increase in Portland gun violence

Published: Jul. 16, 2022 at 12:56 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - A new report that digs deeper into Portland’s problems with gun violence shows the city’s homicide rate increasing at an alarming pace, much faster than other cities of similar size.

The 60-page report, put together by the California Partnership for Safe Communities, shows the average age of victims and suspects of homicide are about 33 years old. About 70% had prior involvement in the criminal justice system, and just under 60% had a felony conviction.

Royal Harris, a local activist who has been working to break the cycle of violence in Portland, said the report shows the city needs to be doing more.

“What we’re dealing with is beyond just targeting kids with summer programs,” said Harris. “It’s beyond just looking at parole and probation. It’s about how do we address these critical age groups? How are we addressing gun violence in the homeless community?”

According to the report, more than half the city’s homicides are “group member involved,” or gang-related.

“We certainly appreciate the work done on the report and are looking forward to discussions about the findings,” said Sgt. Kevin Allen, a spokesperson for the Portland Police Bureau. “We believe we’re more effective when we use data analysis to guide our work in public safety.”

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler released a statement about the report over the weekend.

“This report confirms the unfortunate reality of what we already knew, that gun violence is on the rise in Portland, and that it is being driven by a very small percentage of our population,” said Wheeler.

Wheeler’s staff said the mayor plans to hold a press conference to discuss the report and steps forward in more detail later this week.

More details and statistics from the report:

From 2019 – 2021, the City of Portland experienced a:

• 144% increase in counts of homicide incidents

• 241% increase in counts of nonfatal injury shootings

• Relative to five selected peer comparison cities,* Portland experienced the largest increase in homicide rate from 2019 – 2021:

• Portland: 207% increase • Minneapolis: 104% increase • Atlanta: 54% increase • San Francisco: 53% increase • Denver: 47% increase • Nashville: 23% increase

Summary Observations: Characteristics of Those Involved in Violence

• Victims and suspects of homicides and shootings in Portland are primarily African-American (47.2%) and Caucasian (36.5%) men (86.1%).

• The overall average age of victims and suspects is 32.9, and about 78% are between the ages of 18-44.

• Victims tend to be slightly older than suspects, and those involved in homicides as victims or suspects are more likely to be white. Suspects are slightly more likely to be male when compared to victims. Relative to victims and suspects of homicides and shootings 2015- 2019, there are no statistically significant differences in the race, sex, or age of victims and suspects 2019-2021.

Summary Observations: Criminal Justice System Involvement of Victims and Suspects of Homicides & Shootings

• About 70% of victims and suspects had prior criminal justice system involvement.

• Just over 61% of victims and suspects had prior probation or postprison supervision and about 9% were on active probation or postprison supervision.

• About 58% of victims and suspects had a prior felony conviction.

Summary Observations: Incident Analysis & Group Involvement

• Homicides from 2019-2021 were significantly more likely to be gun homicides (75%) when compared to homicides 2015-2019 (60%).

• Just under half of all homicides in Portland from January 2019 – June 2021 involved group or gang members as either victims or suspects or both (41-78%).

• More than half of the 88 gun homicides in Portland from January 2019 – June 2021 involved group or gang members as either victims or suspects or both (52-85%).

• We use the term “group-involved” because it: ▪ captures the full variety of gangs, sets and crews characteristic of Oregon cities; and ▪ includes not just group-on-group conflicts but also incidents in which someone’s association with a group increases their risk of violence.

Key Findings

• Since the last analysis Portland’s homicide and shooting rate has risen dramatically.

• This sharp increase is the largest amongst its peer cities– a 207% increase in homicide rate from 2019-2021.

• Homicides were significantly more likely to be gun homicides (75%) from 2019-2021 when compared to homicides from 2015-2019 (60%).

• During this spike the dynamics of homicides and shootings and demographics of those involved did not change significantly:

• Mainly Caucasian and African-American males, with an average age of 33, and more than half involved in gangs/groups.

• Less than 6% of victims and suspects in shootings and homicides are under the age of 18.

• The majority of victims and suspects are between the age of 18-34, with 25-34 being the largest age group.

• Portland’s gun homicides are mostly group member involved (52%), and 46% of shootings are are also group member involved.

• This is likely a conservative estimate: group member involvement was unknown for 33% of gun homicides and 46% of nonfatal shootings.


• Central Recommendation: Develop a violence intervention strategy that focuses on the majority of the shootings and homicides. In Portland the majority of the shootings and homicides are gang/group member involved

• Focus on the individuals that are at the very highest risk of being involved in shootings and homicides as victims and suspects. In Portland these are the characteristics of those at very highest risk:

• African-American males age 18-34

• Caucasian males age 18-34

• Well known to the criminal justice system, especially those with felonies

• Prior or current probation/post prison supervision

• Involved in an active high-risk network/group

• Has been previously shot or socially connected to a recent shooting or homicide.

• When implementing strategies to reduce gun violence utilize available data to focus on the largest known driver of gun violence.

• Utilize evidence-based practices and plan data collection procedures that facilitate ongoing assessment and strategic adjustments.

• If the goal of public safety strategies is to reduce gun violence in the near term, invest in and focus on the people that are at highest risk now.

• Obtain technical assistance from research partners to assist with design and implementation.

• Work with probation/parole on risk assessments for those most likely to be involved in gun violence.

See the entire report, here.