Area law enforcement agencies announce gun violence collaboration

Area law enforcement agencies announce gun violence collaboration

Metro Safe Streets Task Force brings together local and federal resources

PORTLAND, Ore. – Today, April 13, 2021, in response to a persistent and concerning rise in local gun violence, Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt and Acting U.S. Attorney Scott Erik Asphaug join area law enforcement partners to announce a new initiative to coordinate and focus local and federal law enforcement resources on investigating and prosecuting gun crimes in Multnomah County.

The Portland Police Bureau, Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office and Gresham Police Department have entered into a voluntary agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice—to include the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF)—to deputize a small contingent of local law enforcement officers to focus exclusively on investigating gun violence and crimes involving firearms. These federally-deputized officers will be assigned to the Metro Safe Streets Task Force.

All agencies involved in this initiative agree that community and law enforcement programs designed to prevent gun violence before it occurs are critical to solving this public health crisis. Today’s announcement does not seek to preempt or replace any existing or proposed prevention-based gun violence reduction efforts. Rather, this new initiative is focused on investigating shootings after they occur and, where appropriate and supported by evidence, charging those responsible in state or federal court.

Because the purpose of this collaboration is to interdict gun-related harm in our community, local law enforcement deputized under this new agreement will play no role in enforcing immigration law nor perform any crowd management duties at First Amendment demonstrations or events. Further, all local law enforcement agencies party to this agreement are free to unilaterally cancel their participation in the collaboration at any time.

Participation in the Metro Safe Streets Task Force will give local law enforcement a greater ability to (1): coordinate investigations across both the federal and state judicial systems; (2): access federal forensic testing and analysis resources; (3): access needed equipment such as vehicles, additional police radios and computers; and (4): receive funding for overtime costs not currently funded by local agencies.

Management of the Metro Safe Streets Task Force will be shared among the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon, Special Agent in Charge of the ATF Seattle Field Division, the Multnomah County Sheriff, and the chiefs of the Portland Police Bureau and Gresham Police Department. In performing their task force duties, all deputized officers must follow all laws and the policies and procedures of their respective agency.

Metro Safe Streets Task Force cases will be jointly investigated by local law enforcement task force officers and special agents from the FBI and ATF. As cases progress, investigators and prosecutors from the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office and U.S. Attorney’s Office will work together to determine if state or federal charges are warranted and which jurisdiction would be most appropriate for adjudication.

The frequency of gun violence in Portland and greater Multnomah County demands an immediate response to quell the staggering statistics. Countywide, as of April, there were already more than 30 homicides, nearly half of which involved a firearm. From January 1, 2021 through April 6, 2021, there have been at least 284 non-suicide shootings in the City of Portland. Approximately 32% of the shootings in Portland have resulted in an injury.

The cycle of this rampant gun violence is disproportionately impacting southeast Portland with the Hazelwood, Powellhurst-Gilbert, Centennial, and Lents neighborhoods caught in the crosshairs. From January of 2019 through February of 2021, both the Hazelwood neighborhood and Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood had more shootings in their individual communities than every neighborhood on the city’s west side combined.

Despite representing only 6% of the population of the Portland metro area, roughly 50% of the victims of gun violence injuries in Portland are Black, and this violence is disproportionately expressed within the Black community.

There is national evidence to show local organizations formed to confront violent crime and build stronger communities have a direct and significant role in reducing crime. Of note, research shows that every 10 additional community nonprofits in a city with 100,000 residents leads to a 12% reduction in the homicide rate, a 10% reduction in the violent crime rate, and a 7% reduction in the property crime rate.

The greatest potential for building stronger communities and controlling violent crime will be achieved by increasing the number of neighborhood organizations actively involved in these same efforts, by them developing programs for young people in our community and having dedicated staff to work against violence.

The data around gun violence in Portland and greater Multnomah County is compelling and the number of people killed by gun violence so far in 2021 further amplifies the urgency to act now to bring about a unified investigative approach.

Media should reach out to the individual public information officers to schedule interviews.

Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office –

United States Attorney’s Office –

Portland Police Bureau –

Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office –

Gresham Police Department –

Federal Bureau of Investigation –

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives –

Mayor Ted Wheeler – and (Please email both to ensure the request is seen)