Three Fridays ago, Jermaine Owens, a reputed leader of the Bloods gang in Portland, was getting a haircut. While sitting in the barber's chair, several bullets were fired into the North Portland shop. The assailants hopped in a car and peeled away. Owens was shot, but survived.

The following weekend, there were five bold gang-related shootings. On Saturday morning, police found a 23-year-old man dead and riddled with bullets on the intersection of NE Mason and 18th. That night, police broke up a gang fight at Club Vegas in Northeast Portland. Four men were hospitalized for gunshot wounds. About the same time, a 14-year-old girl was hit by bullets fired from a car. Police suspect the shooters were not gunning for her, but a gang member in the vicinity.

It was, according to the police, "an uptick" in gang activity. From its peak in 1994 to 2001, gang-related violence in town had waned. But in the last three years, gang violence has reportedly returned.

Police partially blame budget cuts, saying they have been forced to halve their gang-related patrols. Legal experts also point out that gang activity often rises when the economy falls.

To address the uptick, Mayor Vera Katz convened a Gang Enforcement Roundtable a few months ago. However, that roundtable did not originally include any Latino or Asian representatives. Moreover, the roundtable did not include any gang members or teens who perhaps know best why they are joining gangs.

In the week following the shootings, there have been a few press conferences calling for more patrols and for the community to stand against gangs. It is an approach one juvenile crime expert called "hot air." Most current information indicates that increased patrols do little, if anything, to truly deter gang violence and teens from joining gangs.

This Saturday there is a forum to formulate a community plan for dealing with gangs. Oregon Association of Minority Entrepreneurs, 4134 N. Vancouver, 10 am - noon.