Salem police outline violence reduction work to begin this summer

The Salem Police Department and Marion County Sheriff’s Office plan to combine efforts this summer to keep a close eye on people at risk of violence and help steer them away from the criminal justice system.

Salem police will work with county deputies who check in with teenagers and adults on supervision to make sure they’re following conditions of their supervision and answer questions about their needs. That could include activities, housing or employment.

The plan is part of a joint effort by Salem-area law enforcement agencies to scale back escalating deadly violence in the capital city with the help of community organizations. 

It comes after a city report last fall found that shootings in Salem had doubled in recent years, and the number of teens arrested for serious assaults had tripled. Just this past Sunday, a 16-year-old boy was shot and killed in a residential area of south Salem. An 18-year-old man was charged with murdering the boy.

The work, which authorities are calling the Community Violence Reduction Initiative, is moving from meetings into concrete action this summer. It will include ramped-up police patrols in northeast Salem, where local shootings have been largely concentrated in recent years, according to the city report.

The city could not provide an estimate for how much the violence initiative will cost. “We should have a better idea as the efforts unfold and outcomes are evidenced,” according to Salem police spokeswoman Angela Hedrick.

Vulnerable to violence

Researchers hired by the city to study community violence found that shootings in Salem had doubled from 2018 to 2022. Last year, Salem police reported that homicides in the city were the highest they’ve been in 15 years.

The researchers’ findings prompted officials to spearhead the violence initiative.

Their report recommended that Salem police intervene in the lives of gang members and work with teenagers at risk of becoming involved in violence. 

The Salem agency said it will identify at-risk people through officer interactions, police reports, community members and nonprofit organizations. 

Police will also start working with sheriff’s deputies who are already assigned to check in with people on parole or probation. The goal is to expand the check-ins so police can help people meet needs, like housing or shelter, rather than just checking that they’re following release conditions.

“The purpose is to deflect the person away from the criminal justice system before a crime is committed and occurs by identifying an individual’s needs and helping provide access to community resources,” according to Hedrick. That could include shelter or addiction treatment.

“Any participation on the individual’s part would be voluntary. The effort is not a duplication of existing community services, rather it is an effort to help navigate individuals who are heading down a path of violence and potential jail or imprisonment, away from that path,” she said.

In addition to the new collaboration, Marion County’s parole and probation division already uses assessments to identify people who need more rigorous oversight and help due to their risk of reoffending or other needs. It provides more intensive supervision through its Special Services Unit, which includes high-risk gang members, according to Sheriff’s Office Cmdr. Jeremy Landers.

Participation in those services is not voluntary. 

Marion County Sheriff Nick Hunter and Cmdr. Jeremy Landers listen during a public forum on reducing violence on Wednesday, March 6, at the East Salem Community Center (Laura Tesler/Special to Salem Reporter)

Teens who could benefit from positive activities would be referred to existing community organizations with recreation or summer athletic programs.

They could also be referred to Salem police’s Guardian program, which provides activities such as an annual bike rodeo for younger kids, and games and sports activities with officers at local youth organizations.

Hedrick said the agency is also seeking to boost trust and education in the community. “This can include current engagement methods at events such as Coffee with a Cop and the Fun Fridays event at Northgate Park. It can also be new opportunities focused on developing education and volunteerism such as graffiti removal at parks with the department’s graffiti removal team,” she said.

Boosted patrols

Salem police also plan to dispatch extra marked police cars, each with two uniformed officers, to parts of the city experiencing increased violence. Police could also patrol those areas on foot or bikes. 

“Their focus is on presence, prevention, and intervention,” according to Hedrick.

The agency expects to assign those extra patrols at least two days a week with two officers working shifts of four to six hours.

“The plan includes coordinating with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office for potential expanded coverage,” Hedrick said. “With limited staffing levels, the increased presence will most likely be covered by officers on overtime. The exact cost is unknown but will be based on how frequently these additional patrols can be scheduled.”

A 2012 report published by the U.S. Department of Justice found that focused policing in crime hot spots “generated significant crime control benefits” in 20 of 25 studies across the country. The report covered 19 hot spots. 

Map of hot spots of gun violence in Salem (Salem Gun Violence Problem Analysis)

Public feedback

The city has held two public forums this year intended to plan ways to reduce gun violence, one in English and one in Spanish

A third meeting is planned for July 19 and will be facilitated by Ben McBride, an activist and consultant focused on criminal justice reform and gun violence prevention. The location and time will later be published online.

Two additional public forums are planned for August, according to city spokeswoman Nicole Miller.

McBride, who is the CEO of the Oakland-based organization Empower Initiative, last month met with stakeholders in the Salem area “to ensure the ideas collected from the community and their perspectives are captured as we work to develop a strategy for our city,” according to Hedrick.

The community feedback will be part of a final evaluation report McBride will provide the city in October.

The city is paying McBride $18,000 for his work on the violence initiative. 


Police to boost NE Salem patrols, identify services for youth at risk of violence

Contact reporter Ardeshir Tabrizian: [email protected] or 503-929-3053.

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Ardeshir Tabrizian has covered criminal justice and housing for Salem Reporter since September 2021. As an Oregon native, his award-winning watchdog journalism has traversed the state. He has done reporting for The Oregonian, Eugene Weekly and Malheur Enterprise.