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2021 was a record year for homicides in Portland

KTVZ file

Associated Press/Report For America

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — In 2021, Portland recorded 90 homicides amid a surge in gun violence, shattering the city’s previous high of 66 set more than three decades ago.

The number of homicides in Portland surpassed more populous cities like San Francisco and Boston — and more than double the number of slayings last year in its larger Pacific Northwest neighbor, Seattle.

Portland wasn’t the only American city to set a new mark for number of killings in a year. Philadelphia, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Lexington, Kentucky, were among the places that also saw record-high homicides in 2021.

Killings have been on the rise in Portland for the past few years. From 2019 to 2020, Portland had a sharper rise in killings — an 83% increase — than nearly all major cities. At the time, nationally homicides had increased by nearly 30%, based on FBI data.

City police and officials say last year’s increase — which disproportionally impacted Portland’s Black community — was fueled by gang-related arguments, drug deals gone array and disputes among people living on the streets. In addition, the situation was exacerbated by the pandemic, economic hardships and mental health crises.

In a May statement, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler warned residents that “groups” were traveling to the city from Washington and California to “engage in and advance gun violence.” In addition, Wheeler said “groups involved in this violence have issued an order to shoot someone in the next 30 days or be shot for not showing loyalty. ”

Similar to the ’90s, Portland officials have said the city faces a rampant gang problem. Comparatively, police and residents say the boldness of shooters, their young age and the amount of shots fired surpass what they have seen before.

Portland Police Sgt. Ken Duilio said when he was an officer 30 years ago, Portland detectives were stunned if they found more than a few dozen bullet casings after a shooting. Now, police are recording multiple shootings a week with 50 to 70 shots fired.

The ages of homicide victims ranged from a 3-month-old boy to a 77-year-old woman killed in a hit-and-run rampage that also injured at least seven others.

At least 10 homicides involved people living on the street settling grievances.

“Many Portlanders no longer feel safe in their city,” Wheeler said in November, when discussing violence in the city.

More than three-fourths of Portland’s homicides were by gunfire.

The proliferation of guns also fueled a record 1,288 shootings throughout the city last year, with 385 people either wounded.

The intense pace of shootings has continued into the new year, with three people shot and killed in Portland during the first weekend of 2022 — a 43-year-old and his 21-year-old nephew and a 39-year-old man.

Portland’s police department has struggled to keep up with the violence, amid an acute staffing shortage and budget cuts.

As of November, the police force was 128 officers below its authorized strength. Since August 2020, about 200 officers have left the department.

As homicides surged, family members of victims and advocates who work with young gang members questioned the cuts and asked for greater police presence, along with accountability and increased social services.

In November 2021, Portland was among major cities that added funds to their police department. City Council unanimously passed a fall budget bump that included increasing the $230 million police budget by an additional $5.2 million.

The added police spending includes signing bonuses for new officers, funding a retire-rehire program and bolstering recruitment with the goal to hire 200 additional sworn officers and 100 unarmed community safety officers by 2024 — which some advocates see as a meaningful reform win and a compromise to defunding police.

In addition, the police bureau’s long-awaited Focused Intervention Team, aimed at addressing gun violence, are now in training and expected to hit the streets later this month. The 12-member team includes seven people of color and three women.


Sara Cline is a corps member for The Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

The Associated Press



  1. Encourage lawlessness and protest.

    Defund the police department and make officers feel unwelcome in their own communities.

    Refuse to prosecute perpetrators of violence.

    Who could have possibly seen this result coming?

    1. If you read the article, it’s not just a Portland or blue state issue: “Portland wasn’t the only American city to set a new mark for number of killings in a year. Philadelphia, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Lexington, Kentucky, were among the places that also saw record-high homicides in 2021.”

      1. Yes sir! My mind has been made up about Wheeler and his policies for years. He supports the wrong side of the issue. When he stands in support of ANTIFA and BLM rioters, I pretty much define him as feckless.

      2. Yes sir! My mind has been made up for years about Wheeler and his policies. When he stands in support of ANTIFA and BLM rioters he showed himself to support the wrong side of the issue, along with anyone who stands in support of Wheeler.

      3. Another loyal liberal, defending the reasons for the obvious failures in Portland. That’s why it’s a concern that Bend for the last couple decades has be the recipient of those who’s mentality have ruined the cities they’ve come from.

        1. Yes Bend is suffering tremendously as a result. LOL!!!! Its actually Burns and Mitchell that are 10th fastest growing cities in the country!!! Soooooo much failing for the trump Borg out in those backwaters.

      4. Actually not a horribly written article. They didn’t make the “connection” between loss of cops and the the rise in violence (blamed it on other things), but recognized the need for more police presence l.

      5. Barney, Ted made his bed. Between him, Schmidt, and the US attorney refusing to prosecute riotors of the terrorist organizations, BLM and antifa, they all feel emboldened to commit crimes. Even murder. And why wouldn’t they? This is the DIRECT result of crime supporting politicians. Our minds are not made up. Our thinking minds didn’t need ammunition to put two and two together. But of course in our new world two plus two equals whatever Kate says it is.

      6. Fife,
        The dirty little secret that no one will say is that Portland cut 15 million dollars from the police budget and the when they realized it was an egregious error and put 5 million back in the police budget they call it an increase.
        I’m not sure about your math skills but I’m reasonably certain about mine and when you start with someone taking 15 million from you and they give you back 5 million you still have a 10 million dollar deficit.

        1. “Dirty little secret that no one will say” was of course well-reported at the time by the “mainstream media” the haters attack unfairly, usually for untrue reasons.

          BTW, do YOU ever get embarrassed (hey I’m borrowing your macro!) by calling me the name of a 1960s Andy Griffith sitcom character? No, I’m sure not. Such a label says way more about you than it does me… have a great day Phil.

          1. Fife,
            I think the similarities are strikingly similar as Barney was the wannabe Sheriff that was only allowed to carry one bullet. The bullet was of course not in the gun but rather in his shirt pocket. And yes I do get embarrassed,I get embarrassed by some of the outlandish and misinformed statements made by the “wokesters” that frequent the comment section of this digital rag.
            Keep up the good work there Fife. I might add, check that bullet as I’m certain Andy gave you a blank.

    1. This all started while a man that called himself ver stable genius was president. And remember his inauguration speech in ‘17 ranting about ending the carnage in our cities? He actually made it trend worse. Good luck turning his momentum around!

    2. You left out the fact that the wild-eyed progressive concept of de-fund the police and weak on crime- is strictly a Demokant policy… no where else on the planet is a political group talking this kind of garbage. They seem to have “their minds made up” on putting the lives of law abiding citizens at risk.

        1. I’ve never had a job where I’ve been able to blame my poor performance on a
          lack of coworkers and too low of a salary. Where else can I find a miracle job like this? Are you hiring?

          1. You seem to be cut out or management. You lack the capacity to see that there comes a point where you can’t do more with less? Have you not been out of the house for the last year? You have t seem signs to the effect of “sorry we are short staffed”? Really? Really? You haven’t seen that? You lack the capacity to understand there is a finite amount of work a given amount of labor can do? I don’t think anyone is hiring someone without the ability to understand this simple concept. Good luck, vote for someone in Kate Browns mold. You are going to need the welfare.

  2. Hope Central Oregon is paying attention. Portland is what Portland does. They are getting what they set their selves up for. Hopefully there is still some commen senses left here to prevent this from happening here

    1. Eventually the thugs will run out of buildings to burn and will head over the pass. Bend will welcome them. Prineville kicked them back over the pass. But they are coming. Make no mistake.

        1. “Most of Portland still stands” ??? Well… 90 homicide victims don’t ! Where exactly do you get off justifying such a callous and insensitive remark ?

  3. Weird, the article left out the 15 million$ cuts in 2020. The next year, is a record setting year for death. Five million back is a start. I wonder when they will add back the rest? Correlation is not causation, but it doesn’t rule it out either. Under Wheelers “leadership” more rose city residents than ever are dead. Occams Razor. My mind is made up. Take a good look in the crystal ball Bend residents. This is the path we are on.

  4. Liberals are the undisputed world champions of living in denial.

    They will create problems like this with liberal policies then dance around the subject by blaming the resulting violence on guns, mental health crises, and economic hardship.

    Gold winners in mental gymnastics.

  5. I doubt anyone is suprised with all the tollerated lawlessness a’going on in P-Twon for the last two years. And the ‘gang task force’ was disbanded because, portland

  6. The rise in gun violence also coincides with the dismantling of the anti-gang task force which was accused of racial bias in fighting gang violence. Unfortunately, Portland’s black community is paying the price for this poor choice. Now they are finally standing up the Focused Intervention Team at about the third of the size. We will see how they do, but I am not holding my breath on it. I wonder how Wheeler got the idea that this was all gangbangers from out of state. Looks more home grown to me.
    By the way, Portland is up 5 so far in 2022 on a pace for 120 this year.

  7. The rise in shootings and homicides also coincides with the elimination of the anti-gang task force which was accused of racial bias. Unfortunately, Portland’s black community is paying the price. Now Portland is finally standing up the Focused Intervention Team whit about a third of the people. We will find out if they can make a change, but I am not holding my breath. By the way, Portland has 5 deaths so far in 2022 which would put them at 120 this year if it keeps this pace.

    1. I really wish people would stop using the term gun violence. It shows a lack of intelligence and is nothing more than liberal ignorance. I automatically label any so called journalist that uses the term gun violence to nothing more than an uneducated novice hack, and I don’t care if they have 20 years of experience and a college degree.

  8. Portland is nowhere near being the murder capital of the US. There are plenty of cities of about the same size with three times Portland’s homicide rate.

  9. Common sense dictates what the results would be of lack of enforcement of criminal laws….

    “Right on time, in a result that should surprise no one with even an inkling of human nature, the crime rate in those cities isn’t just skyrocketing. It’s climbing beyond levels crime statistics can measure as outright chaos rules streets that the terrified citizenry must now avoid.

    This week’s prime examples come to us from California as Los Angeles and San Francisco fall victim to an endless series of home invasion robberies and flash-mob, smash-and-grab thefts stealing millions of dollars in expensive merchandise both day and night. ”

  10. It is really sad you Barney support the left wing nuts in your party. Biden Wheeler Brown and all over the country with the same dumb ideas causing the destruction of America. Portland coming to Central Oregon because of the same wing nuts.

        1. To counter the toxic hate and untruths about me/the media so many here spread. Groups like this represent our best hope of moving beyond the Blame Society and potential cold (pray not hot) “civil war” some seem anxious to bring about because they know they’ll be on the “winning side,” no matter the awful cost.

  11. “City police and officials say last year’s increase — which disproportionally impacted Portland’s Black community — was fueled by gang-related arguments, drug deals gone array and disputes among people living on the streets.”

    Disproportionally impacted the black community ? Wow that’s really insightful.
    Portland is no different than most other large cities when it comes to crime rates
    in predominately black communities.

  12. Everyone that voted in these “woke” far left progressive men and women are a fault. Try curbing the “poor me emotional bandwagon act” and vote in competent leaders that will have our back from now on. It doesn’t have to be a democrat or republican.

  13. In unrelated news: “ Statewide, background checks for gun sales are surging. This year, the Oregon State Police have completed 400,831 background checks through November, according to the state website. That compares to 309,674 checks in all of 2020.”
    More guns = more gun use?

    1. ” In unrelated news: “ Statewide, background checks for gun sales are surging. This year, the Oregon State Police have completed 400,831 background checks through November, according to the state website. That compares to 309,674 checks in all of 2020.”
      More guns = more gun use? ”

      This isn’t the first year that gun sales have surged dramatically.
      “More guns = more gun use ?” Are you insinuating that the number of shootings
      will increase because more guns are being legally sold ? No they won’t because the
      statistics you quoted for background checks are transactions that are taking
      place by law abiding citizens. Very few of those firearms will be used in shootings.

  14. They say it themselves. Correlation is not necessarily causation. The ole chicken and the egg. Is there more crime because there are more guns, or are more folks buying more guns to protect themselves from more crime?

  15. You can’t have a different view than Barney because he is the dictator and just shut up because he knows it all. Sorry Barney you ain’t right 100% of the time. But this is your mouth piece so you can do what ever you decide.

    1. And yet we let people like you say things like that. If you were attacking anyone else with unfair untrue claims I’d delete it. But people need to see that we allow 1,000s of comments I wouldn’t agree with. Proving you wrong.
      I’ve often said as a reporter, “I don’t ‘know’ anything – I just know who knows, and quote them accurately.”
      NO One is right 100% of the time. But folks who over-generalize to completely dismiss the “evil other side” are the true danger to our society.

    2. Ehh, sometimes he gets a little too PC and won’t allow things he perceives as a slight, and it can seem like censorship. Usually if you reword it more gently he allows it. Sometimes it does seem to be a bit suffocating, and takes some of the fire out of your posts. Overall, I think he does a good job in a difficult setting.

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