In the past year, Portland has seen a dramatic rise in gun violence that has disproportionately affected the city’s Black residents. East Portland’s Hazelwood, the neighborhood with the fourth-highest number of Black residents in the city, has endured more shootings than any other part of Portland. Only 1 in 25 Portlanders live in Hazelwood, but 1 in 13 of last year’s shootings took place there (“Surviving Hazelwood,” WW, June 9, 2021). WW spoke to several residents who have been affected by that violence firsthand, including a father whose 16-year-old son was fatally shot last August. Portland City Hall is locked in a debate whether last year’s disbanding of a police unit focused on gun violence contributed to the increase in deaths, but few people WW spoke to felt that a reduced police presence was the fundamental problem. Here’s what our readers had to say:
Marisheba, via wweek.com: “You have to explain why this gang and drug problem escalated so dramatically and sharply in such a short time. Thinking the disbanding of the gun violence reduction team is the full answer gives almost superheroic credit to their effectiveness.”
Walter Barrer, via Facebook: “East Portland has long been treated with a combination of neglect and contempt ever since the city annexed it back in the ’80s. It was inevitable that it would come to this.”
Connie Clemens, via Facebook: “It’s a sad situation. I’d much rather invest in our kids so they grow up healthy than spend money locking them up when they grow up dysfunctional.”
Mr Logic, via wweek.com: ’'Lionel Irving says local officials must do more to save teenagers from violence. ‘We have to take action.’ Agreed. How about a gun violence reduction task force? Like the one this inept city leadership just defunded? If I performed this badly in my job, I’d not only be fired, I’d be sued. And rightly so.”
Lola, via wweek.com: “Did anyone read the article? Read what the parents said? As a Black woman pushed into outer East Portland due to gentrification, I will give you ANOTHER firsthand account of the problem: There is nothing out here. Nothing but dive bars and mini marts, apartments. Everything that makes up our community—church, events, etc.—is still [Northeast]. We’ve been purposely and strategically uprooted, disenfranchised and scattered, left out of the economic growth that Oregon has had, mainly because we or our homes and property were a key part of that growth. They just needed us out of them, and fast.”
Renee Manseau, via Facebook: “Man, it has been so bad out here. This article didn’t even touch on Rockwood, which is just a continuation of this area and has had several shootings in the past month, including shooting up a vigil. 172nd area has been insane. The pandemic definitely seems to be playing a role of sorts. We need so much more community stuff in this area.”
Gsptrane, via wweek.com: “I found this article insightful and well written. Stories such as these may inform those who can provide solutions. It won’t be easy. Many cities in the nation are experiencing increasing gun violence, a trend that began in spring last year. Before that, crime had been reasonably stable. Why the change? Opinions differ widely. Timing would suggest that the shutdown and lack of accountability for racist actions and rhetoric contributed.”
A story on COVID-19 vaccinations (“The Big Number,” WW, June 9, 2021) miscalculated the time it will take for Oregon to reach a 70% vaccination rate at the current pace. The state is on pace to reach 70% in June, not July. WW regrets the error.
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