GRESHAM, Ore. (KOIN 6) — On the heels of two deadly gang-related homicides in the city of Portland, Multnomah county and community leaders gathered Tuesday to go over a 500 page gang assessment report.
The Multnomah County Comprehensive Gang Assessment started in January 2014 and is organized by the Multnomah County Local Public Safety Coordinating Council (LPSCC).
The report gives one of the most in-depth assessments of current gang activity in the county in years, officials said.
“What this assessment shows is even though in general crime is down in Multnomah County over the past 10 or so years, we’re seeing a change in demographic and a change in where those crimes are happening,” Abbey Stamp, the Executive Director of LPSCC said.
According to the report’s findings, overall crime in the county has decreased in recent years. However, the data masks a shift in criminal activity from North and Northeast Portland to neighborhoods in Southeast Portland, Gresham and East Multnomah County. The data indicates that gang activity appears to be concentrated in the Rockwood neighborhood in Gresham, the Humboldt and King neighborhoods in Northeast Portland and the downtown neighborhoods near Old Town in Portland.
Those neighborhoods, according to the report, struggle with low income, unemployment, low voter registration and higher teen pregnancy.
“What that teaches us is where we need to change where our inventions happen and what are our responses are,” Stamp said.
The report finds that overall reported Part 1 Violent Crimes (murders, aggravated assaults) increased by 1% from 2011 to 2013 overall in Multnomah County, but in the Rockwood neighborhood, that rate increased by 62%.
According to the report, family involvement in a youth’s life highly correlates with gang involvement. The report states that nearly every gang-involved subject interviewed indicated that they would not want their children to be involved in gang.
“When you become a parent … you’re inspired and encouraged to do better,” Antoinette Edwards, the director of Portland’s Office of Youth Violence Prevention said. “I think this statement, and this data, helps us understand what programs we can implement.”
The majority of the 80 gang-involved subject interviewed said that becoming a parent was the top reason for leaving a gang. The findings also revealed that most people believe the top reasons for joining a gang include poverty and having a family member or friend in gang.
The report finds that employment, programs and mentors were identified as the top methods to reducing gang activity.
Areas of concern include school dropout rates, which are highest in the Reynolds School District, according to the report. The report states that when researchers interviewed students who self-identified as gang members, the most common reason to join a gang was reported back to be for money and “fun.”
According to the report, community programs specifically designed to serve gang-involved youth are few in Multnomah County.
The report also found Multnomah County lacks a centralized method for identifying and tracking gang-related events and individuals. Despite the data limitations, the report identifies at least 133 active gangs in Multnomah County that are known to local law enforcement.
Data provided by the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office, the Gang Unit from 2012-2013 issued 41% fewer gang-related felony cases, but issued 100% gang-related misdemeanor cases, which include crimes like unlawful possession of a firearm. The increase in misdemeanor cases is attributed to additional staffing the DA’s Office obtained through a grant.
Some officials have said the decrease in felony cases maybe associated to number of investigations police were able to solve. Detectives with the Portland Police Bureau Gang Enforcement Team said the “don’t snitch” culture can affect their ability to close cases.
Edwards said hopes more people will come forward and trust investigators so felony person-to-person crimes are solved faster and more often.
The report is stage one of a three pronged approach at addressing the gang issues in Multnomah County. Stage one included the assessment and information gathering. Stage two will include the implementation planning to answer questions like ‘where does the county want to go?’. The third stage includes the action phase.