After Portland reported a record number of homicides last year, city leaders invested $6 million in nonprofit programs and formed a new police unit, both intended to reduce shootings. Oregon’s largest city has had 56 homicides as of Aug. 16, seven fewer than at this time last year but far above its average for the past two decades. Portland’s struggle illustrates how difficult it has been to bring down the violent crime across the U.S. that surged in 2020, the Wall Street Journal reports. Homicides in the first six months of this year were down two percent in cities and counties policed by the 70 largest U.S. law-enforcement agencies compared with the same period last year, according to the Major Cities Chiefs Association.
The rates of other violent crimes have fluctuated over the past two years in Portland and most other major cities. Robberies fell at the beginning of the pandemic but are up this year. Portland was long among the safest U.S. cities, averaging about 21 homicides a year from 2000 through 2019. Then 2020 brought the pandemic, as well as protests seeking cuts in police funding that were frequently accompanied by looting and property violence. As a result of public pressure, the Portland City Council voted to cut $15 million from the police department’s $244 million budget in 2020 and eliminated the 38-person team focused exclusively on gun violence, which city leaders criticized for alleged racial profiling.