The big difference between Portland’s violence today and the 1987 record? Guns and indiscriminate fire

In December 1987, as Portland was on the verge of closing a record 70 homicide year, people and politicians expressed frustration and claimed the city was becoming more dangerous.

“Murders and aggravated assaults have increased, and prostitution, gang activity and drug ripple effects continue to plague areas of Portland,” read an article in The Oregonian this month. this.

What happened that year became a foil for 2021, when Portland again saw a dramatic increase in violent deaths in numbers not seen since then.

But a lot has changed over the past 34 years, including the increase in firearms as the weapon of choice.

TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT PEOPLE DEAD IN 2021 AND NEW CASE DETAILS, go to Portland Homicides: Under the Gun

In 1987, none of the homicides involved driving or indiscriminate shootings.

Police did not find dozens of cartridge cases at homicide scenes in 1987 or today.

The “potential for violence” is different now, said Tom Hallman, the Oregonian Police reporter at the time.

“Something has changed culturally and socially, and the type of guns that have become available creates a different type of record,” said Hallman, who continues to work for the newspaper as a columnist.

In 1987, many people were killed in close quarters and personally, including 33 stab wounds and beating against 27 shots. So far this year, the vast majority have died in shootings.

More whites than people of color were killed in 1987, although people of color still died in disproportionate numbers compared to their population here. The Oregonian’s analysis at the time indicated that 37 homicide victims were white, 15 black, nine Hispanic, five Asian and four Native American.

This contrasts with now, when people of color who have died in homicides outnumber white victims so far this year.

Sixteen women died in 1987, double the number of women killed this year until October 1.

Police determined that arguments or disputes led to the majority of deaths (25) in 1987, according to the Oregonian analysis. Nine deaths were linked to thefts and four to drug-related murders. Police also killed four people in shootings, later determined by grand juries to be in self-defense.

Homicides took place all over Portland, but about half occurred in north and northeast Portland.

Overall, the 1987 homicide victims ranged from a 6 month old girl to an 88 year old male.

An Oregon poll of Portland-area residents at the time found that 95% of those surveyed were worried about crime.

CW Jensen, who worked for two years as a homicide detective for the Portland Police Department in 1987, said he helped solve eight murders that year.

Most of them, he said, could be separated into two types of cases: domestic or acquaintance murders, which typically resulted in an arrest within days, and mysteries that took months or months. years to find the suspect.

The homicides that generally remained unsolved, he said, involved people who were homeless. He added that investigators also never found the killers of several young women suspected of being involved in the sex trafficking industry.

Homicides in Portland had increased until 1987, ranging from 36 to 50 people per year. During the 1990s, rates of homicide and violent crime were on the rise across the country, in part because of the crack cocaine epidemic. And then, from the early 2000s until 2015, the number of murders dropped to about 24 a year in Portland.

Research shows that the random nature of homicides makes it difficult to draw conclusions about any year – and 1987 could have been an anomaly, said Kris Henning, professor and chair of the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of State of Portland. Henning helped the Portland Police Bureau develop an automated risk assessment system and created a website to explore long-term crime trends in Portland.

But 2021 doesn’t appear to be an anomaly, Henning said.

“It’s better to look at longer-term trends, like five or 10 or 20 years,” Henning said.

“Violent crime and shootings have been on the rise in Portland for more than five years. It’s not this year that concerns me, it’s the trajectory.

“And the level of hostility has, of course, increased since the pandemic; I have no doubt that COVID played a role in this, as well as the sad reality that more people have access to guns. “

–Savane Eadens; [email protected]; 503-221-6651; @savannaheadens

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