Is it possible that the Portland city government is second-guessing cutting their police funding by $16 million this past year? They now have armed private security forces which have been hired by local businesses patrolling their streets. These forces are necessary now to keep the peace during a recent crime spree in the city.
Several local news sources in Portland have reported on the spike in crime that a number of cities in America are experiencing. “Homicides in Portland increased from 28 in 2019 to 54 in 2020. Among cities similar in size to Portland, Seattle saw an increase from 34 to 53 homicides, in Minneapolis, a spike from 48 to 82, and Milwaukee saw homicides increase from 97 to 190 from 2019 to 2020, ” KGW reported earlier this summer.
KGW also noted that Portland is apparently on track to see close to 1000 homicides this year.
The city of Portland is still trying to recover from an extended series of demonstrations. There was a 100-day streak of protests that caused an estimated $23 million in damages. There was $2 million in damages to federal buildings in downtown Portland alone.
The protests in the city demanded that Portland defund the police and in response, the city cut law enforcement’s budget by $16 million. This is a move “which included stripping Portland of its Central Precinct Entertainment Detail. Nine officers used to be assigned to Portland’s nightlife scene, but now, only two officers patrol the area,” according to Fox News.
This is what caused the central entertainment district to hire private security to fill the void, according to Fox News, especially after dozens of officers left the force, either by resignation or retirement. There are now approximately 120 fewer Portland police officers on the force than there was last summer. The Old Town entertainment area was recently the scene of a mass shooting and seven people were wounded.
Local news in Portland cited the Willamette Week saying, “Private armed security outfits have been hired to patrol a popular section of Portland known for its bars and nightlife after the city slashed police funding and saw a year of violence in the area.” The report continued, “The decreased police presence created what business owners describe as a public safety vacuum. Private security companies arrived with rifles, metal detector wands, and Kevlar vests.”
One local outlet gave a description of what the average citizen encounters in the night scene, “[Portland’s] clubgoers are met by a heavily armed guard. He stands beneath the Hung Far Low sign, clad in a bulletproof vest and desert-tan tactical pants, with a 9 mm pistol strapped to his leg and an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle slung over his shoulder.”
Here’s the profile of this hired gun. His name is Jean-Pierre LaFont. He is a 45-year-old veteran who makes his home in Gresham. LaFont did a tour of duty in Bosnia with the Navy SEALS. At 6 feet tall, he wears black gloves with white bones on them. This is what he has to say about his work, “My job is to get you home safe. Unless you’re the perpetrator. The only way for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing. So I’m going to do something.”
According to the Willamette Week, LaFont works for “a private military contractor—the kind of firm that operates in war zones.” Now, instead of keeping the peace in foreign lands, this veteran and his group are keeping the peace in Portland’s Old Town district.
Ted Wheeler, Portland’s Mayor, recently said that he was fed up with the violence that has erupted in the city since last year, but the change did little, it seems to impact violence.