The after effects of gun violence in Salem-Keizer 

As the issue of gun violence continues to affect the community, it is important to ensure you view all of the facts before making a determination of the situation. 

With a recent gun violence incident that resulted in the death of 16-year-old Jose Manuel Vasquez Valenzuela and the injury of 16-year-old Roberto Muñoz-Soto and 15-year-old Damien Esquivel-Soto, still under investigation, Salem-Keizer Public Schools (SKPS) will be displaying two weapon detection systems at Stephens Middle School on March 22, from 1-7 p.m. 

The school is located at 4962 Hayesville Dr. NE and will have SKPS officials present to collect feedback and answer questions during the showing. 

The security systems are portable scanners from OpenGate detectors from CEIA USA, an Ohio-based security company and Evolv, a Massachusetts-based security company. 

Costs for the systems can vary with a single system costing up to $10,000 though oftentimes leasing scanners is available for certain periods of time. 

Around the country, school districts spend millions leasing this equipment such as the Columbus City district spending $3 million, Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville spending around $11.7 million or the Atlanta Public Schools system approving $2.6 million for weapons detection back in 2022. 

As of now, there has not been a determination by the district if such systems would be purchased or if systems would be deployed to schools nor what schools would receive them, according to district spokesperson Aaron Harada. He added that the district would have a better handle on the issue after the Friday presentation. 

The first mention of school weapon detection systems was from Superintendent Castañeda in a community  forum, as previously told by Salem Reporter. 

The cost of the detection system would depend on how many scanners were purchased, according to Harada, though it is unclear where the funding for the systems would come from as millions will soon be cut from school budgets this Spring. 

Salem Health, which had weapon detectors installed in August 2023, currently utilizes the Evolv brand weapon detection system with Salem Health spokesperson Lisa Wood describing that hospital data “shows a notable decrease in firearms detected from more than 1.03 per day at the Emergency Department (ED) to about 0.116 daily across all entrances.” 

Wood noted that part of the reason the hospital bought the detection system was due to “escalating reports of violence against healthcare workers across the country.” 

In an information release email to parents, Castañeda described similar issues of rising gun violence in Salem. 

In the report from the Salem Police Department, the first page denotes a “100 percent increase in gun violence incidents over five years (2018-2022). 

The next page displays this increase which in total is 10 more incidents over the five years with 10 in 2018 (2 fatal, 8 non-fatal) and 20 incidents in 2022 (4 fatal,16 non-fatal). 

The report did not present factors as what may have led to this increase and ways to address the issue came mainly through encouraging more policing and engagement with high risk communities, primarily Black and Brown, as well as more policing in those same areas, according to the report. 

Where before the method was to rely on self-reports or incidental findings at Salem Health, Wood stated that the detection systems have greatly reduced weapon entries. 

Salem Health security officials noted that the systems do aid in helping prevent a majority of weapons entering though, by itself, would do little to prevent a determined shooter from entering the building, according to reporting by Salem Reporter. 

In 2023, Salem Health had 60 gunshot wound (GSW) patients at an average age of 31.9 years old. Of those patients, 39 incidents were from assault, 12 incidents from accidental shootings, 5 were self-inflicted and 4 incidents had to do with law enforcement, making up 3% of the total patient volume in 2023, according to Wood. 

For perspective, in 2022, Salem Health had 105,422 emergency department visits, according to their website

The notion of putting weapon detection systems in schools, however, has drawn varying opinions and feedback from the community. 

A March 13 Facebook post from Latinos Unidos Siempre, a Salem-based youth group said that, “The fact that Andrea Castañeda has decided to use this vulnerable time to introduce the idea of metal detectors, which have been proven to be harmful for Black, Brown, and Indigenous youth, shows that our grief is being taken advantage of.” 

The post went on to state that the Castañeda and Salem Police Chief Trevor Womack are using the incident to push for measures that do little to make schools safer but instead make them more unwelcoming and noted that schools should invest more support in mental health services. 

Sourced from Rachel Alexander of the Salem Reporter. 

Contact Quinn Stoddard
[email protected] or 503-390-105

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