Crime increases in Gresham as population grows

Gresham, now Oregon's fourth largest city, has seen an increase in violent crime as the city's population continues to grow. (KOIN 6)
Gresham, now Oregon's fourth largest city, has seen an increase in violent crime as the city's population continues to grow. (KOIN 6)

GRESHAM, Ore. (KOIN 6) — Most violent crime is down in Portland except for one area: East Multnomah County, east of 148th Avenue and into Gresham.

Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis said East Multnomah County’s population is growing along with violent crime, including murders and assaults. With 110,000 people, Gresham is now Oregon’s fourth largest city.

“Well, I think that some poverty has moved in as Portland has regentrified and pushed some issues our way. Some parts of the city are experiencing some unique issues that we’ve never experienced before,” said Bemis.

Those “unique issues” include gangs. City officials said there were seven homicides in Gresham last year of which six were gang-related. Before 2013, the city averaged only two murders a year.

“I’m not sure if it’s too out of hand because I’m not around it that much, but I hear about it a lot,” said Marcus Gillespie, a Gresham resident.

Earlier this month, a summit brought officials from East County together to come up with a plan as summer approaches.

Joe Walsh, who was recently named as Gresham’s Gang Prevention Advisor, was among those who attended.

“We hired a gang outreach worker. It’s the first time the city has had that position,” said Walsh.

In addition to Walsh’s new position, a new police precinct houses an assistant district attorney to prosecute gang-related crimes. Plus, a new Boys and Girls Club is in the works to get more young people off the street.

On the enforcement side, city officials are asking voters to approve a $5 million public safety measure on the May ballot. If approved, that money would be given to police, fire departments and parks.

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