- Erik Ursin
In good times, biweekly meetings of the city's Gang Violence Task Force are forums of celebration, congratulatory roundtables over positive efforts at curbing Portland's re-emerging gang issues.
This morning's meeting was not one of those.
October's already seen two gang-related killings in Portland—both within the span of a week. In the past couple weeks, cops have fielded calls for six additional shootings and a stabbing.
More worrisome: the past six months have been far more violent than 2012, when police saw record gang violence.
"It's humbling, it's frustrating," Portland Police Gang Enforcement Team Lt. Art Nakamura told task force members this morning. "Are we failing?"
That's not anything we haven't heard before, and 2013 is still on track to see less gang violence than 2012. We've had 90 attacks classified as gang-related this year, which means Portland's on track for around 110 (not that these things happen at any predictable clip). There were 118 attacks last year.
But the fresh violence is also a blow to the efforts of the people who sit around the task force table—prosecutors, police officers, community members, religious associations, social services workers. It's a disheartening indication all their work has yet to pay off.
Nakamura offered a couple figures:
•24 people shot in Portland since May 1, compared to 13 over the same period last year.
•8 people stabbed in the same time period, compared to 3 last year.
"Something's not working," he said. "It's not going our way."
The two killings in recent weeks had already spurred a moment of silence at the meeting's outset.
On October 11, 15-year-old Abukar Madey and another man were shot on the MAX platform at SE 92nd and Holgate. Madey was shot in the head, and was dead when cops found him. The other victim survived. Police announced yesterday they'd arrested an 18-year-old in the shooting. They say it arose out of a rivalry between Hispanic gangs.
The Monday before Madey was killed, 33-year-old Donte Young was shot in the head near N Burr and Fessenden. Cops say he had a pistol on him at the time, and have said the killing stemmed from a drug transaction.
As we've reported, police and others have redoubled efforts this year to sway the rising tide of gang violence in the city. Once a scourge in North and Northeast Portland, gang activity receded in the late nineties and early aughts. But a different, connected bout of violence re-emerged in 2008. Today's, gang activity is less turf- and drug-oriented, cops say. And it's increasingly shifted east of the city.
"This is a metro problem," Gresham Police Sgt. Bill Smith reiterated this morning. "It really is."
It also shows no signs of slowing, though police expect it so shift. Nakamura said Portland typically trails gang trends in southern California by roughly five years. While Portland's violence today is typically between gang members of the same race, he expects police will soon battle increased "brown versus black" conflicts.
"In five years, we'll start seeing that," Nakamura said.