Portland News

Why There Are So Many Portland Rooftop Guns?

Portland rooftop guns have become a unique feature for Portland. Each time there is an uptick in crime rates, these firearms appear to take over the city. The start of 2018 brought a new wave of violence to the city, so you might be wondering if this is actually a real thing or not. The short answer is yes, Portland rooftop guns exist and are a very real problem for law enforcement.

According to WGME, Portland has seen more shootings with multiple victims in 2018 than it had in the past five years combined. In 2017, there were six shootings like this. According to the Portland Police Bureau, there have been 39 shootings in 2018 alone, which is almost a 25% spike over 2017.

According to the AP, one of these rooftop incidents involved two people. The police released the following statement to the public about that shooting: “Shortly after 6 p.m. police responded to a report of gunshots fired in the area of Northeast 7th Avenue and Johnson Creek Boulevard. Officers arrived and located an adult male who had been shot in the upper body. He was transported to a local hospital for treatment. Another person was located nearby suffering from a gunshot wound to the leg and was also transported to a local hospital for treatment. Authorities are currently investigating the circumstances surrounding this shooting.”

The Portland Police Bureau’s West Precinct has also noted there have been two “shots fired” incidents in the past week, where two people were hit by gunfire. There have also been six shootings with five or more people shot, which is a new record for the street gang unit.

In one of those cases, police said two children were shot in the legs at a crowded bus stop.

Why are there Portland rooftop guns?

Many people are aware of the street gang issue that plagues the city, but they may not have such a clear understanding of why gun violence is on the rise. A 2017 analysis by The Atlantic delved into that topic and found that many shootings were simply retaliatory acts from within the gangs.

According to the website, “In 441 gang-related shootings identified by the Portland Police Bureau in 2017, more than half resulted from a gang member targeting another person associated with their gang. Twenty percent of those shootings resulted from a gang member being shot at first. The data suggests that many of the gang shootings in Portland are retaliatory.”

A more recent article from The Atlantic, also from 2017, noted that one of Portland’s gangs voluntarily disarmed its gun, and consequently removed the threat of rooftop gang shooting. The article focuses on the “Pop Lock,” a street gang that cut their gun down to size for safety reasons, saying: “Portland’s gang problem is so severe that there is an entire arm of its police department dedicated to the problem.”

The Portland Police Bureau would not confirm that the gang is dismantled but noted that officers were going to a “well-known location” of the gang for a “high-risk list” arrest warrant. Officers had no probable cause to believe gang members were armed, but in the course of serving the warrant found two semi-automatic handguns. The Pop Lock gang is not the only Portland street gang to disarm recently, either. According to the Bureau, three other gangs have put down their guns this year alone.

How to avoid Portland guns

If you want to avoid being a victim of Portland rooftop guns, there are some things that you can do in order to keep yourself out of harm’s way. First, always be aware of your surroundings. Being in a high-risk area for gang crime is never a good idea. If you do find yourself getting off at the wrong bus stop. Or being in the wrong place at the wrong time, try to not act suspicious. Most gang-involved shootings are retaliatory in nature, so act as if you belong! That way, you can avoid becoming a target.

If you do find yourself being targeted by a Portland rooftop gun. And believe you cannot escape, there is one thing you can do to save your life. According to The Atlantic, “The city of Portland has set up a program for removing firearms from gang members and those at risk for committing gun crimes”.

The program allows police to confiscate gang members’ guns for 90 days. Once this period is up, the guns must be returned to their owners or replaced by the police department. This means that Portland rooftop guns may still be around in Portland as we speak. The police statement below was released before the issue of incarceration was considered. It is not known if the law enforcement agency will consider the new law. In their plans to take down Portland’s gang problem.

The action of the police department against them

The way that the police department is combating gangs is via the Special Emergency Response Team (SERT). This team was formed in 2002, to handle especially dangerous situations. The bureau says its purpose is to “de-escalate high-risk situations and resolve them safely. Police officers in the team undergo over 100 hours of advanced training, including active shooter response”. The unit consists of eight to ten officers. Which are trained to be crisis negotiators, critical incident survivalists, and K9 tactical officers. The head of the unit is Sergeant Erich Upperman, who has over 20 years of experience with the police department. Sgt. Upperman tells The Atlantic that this unit is specially trained to interact with gang members.

SERT officers respond to the most serious of calls, often requiring them to use deadly force. They have a high success rate at stemming violence. Having responded to over 100 high-risk situations since 2002 where the unit was needed.


This is not a problem that is going away any time soon. With the street gangs plaguing Portland and their arsenal of weapons in the sky. Knowing how to avoid being targeted by a gang member means knowing where you are at all times. Being alert to your surroundings means never acting suspiciously. The Special Emergency Response Team of the Portland police department. This is a great place to start in order to avoid being targeted by gangs. As they are specially trained to handle such situations.

Opinions expressed by Portland News contributors are their own.