Study: Multnomah County Gang Incidents Moving East

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Oregon Public Broadcasting

A new study into gang activity in the Portland area finds a problem that's shifting east.

A Multnomah County gang study aims to set a baseline for fast improvements.

In spite of recent reports of gang-related shootings in Portland, a new study suggests the problem was worse, ten years ago. The Multnomah County Local Public Safety Coordinating Council commissioned the study in January to give elected officials a full sense of the area's gang problem.

"Shots fired" calls have dropped 16 percent in the last ten years. A map in the study finds gunshots dropped especially in central Portland neighborhoods, while violence spiked in other areas. County commissioner Judy Shiprack says gangs have moved, as area demographics have shifted.

Shiprack explained, "Gang activity seems to be moving in a way that follows the movement of both racial and ethnic diversity and poverty. From closer to the center of the city of Portland, to out into east Portland and Gresham."

In Gresham's Rockwood neighborhood, violence spiked 62 percent between 2011 and 2013.

The study counts more than 130 separate gangs and splinter groups, countywide.

Shiprack says it'll take weeks to fully understand the 500-page report. It's full of statistics, but also includes suggestions such as gang-involved youth calling for better informed mentors. Shiprack says officials are listening. She says that includes an official with the county's juvenile department who responded to the study's mention of using ex-gang members as mentors.

Shiprack said, "If you'd asked her five years, she would have said 'you're crazy' to send an ex-gang member to mentor a young, current gang member. But she had changed her mind. Peer mentorship is a really powerful tool."

Shiprack says the study is the first of phase in the council's gang reduction effort.

She says the new study is meant as a baseline, but she senses an urgency to show improvements as soon as two years from now.

This story originally appeared on Oregon Public Broadcasting.

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