Portland saw the highest number of homicides in July in more than three decades, officials say. The uptick in violence has strained police resources, which have already suffered from budget cuts.

The Portland Police Bureau (PPB) is investigating 15 murders that occurred in July, making the month one of the deadliest for the city in recent memory, local newspaper the Oregonian reported. The city has registered 24 homicides so far this year, meaning that last month alone accounted for more than half of the city’s violent deaths in 2020.

July also saw 63 shootings, compared to 28 during the same month last year, the PPB said.

Police Chief Chuck Lovell expressed concern that the surge in murders was thinning out limited police resources, as officers who would normally patrol the city had been reassigned to help with investigations.

The increase in murders coincided with the city council’s decision to shave more than $15 million from the PPB’s budget. The budget cuts, which took effect on July 1, led to the disbanding of police units that work in schools, investigate gun violence, and patrol the city’s public transport system. Lovell suggested that the loss of the city’s 34-member Gun Violence Reduction Team was particularly regrettable. 

The budget cuts were part of an ongoing nationwide movement to “defund” the police, following the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police. 

Portland is still reeling from demonstrations that have been held every night for more than two months. The protests became increasingly violent in July after federal agents were deployed to protect the city’s federal courthouse. A deal between the state of Oregon and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has called for the federal forces to be replaced by state and local law enforcement, which will likely place further strain on the city’s police. 

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