County lines may not stop wandering gang members, but they present big barriers to police officers tracking those gang members. Once out of the officers' jurisdiction, gang members are out of reach for arrest.
But a new Metropolitan Gang Task Force, beginning operations this week, will break down those jurisdictional barriers.
The Metropolitan Gang Task Force will include officers from the Portland Police Bureau and the Beaverton, Gresham, Hillsboro, Milwaukie and Vancouver police departments; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
"Gangs don't care about state lines or city limits; this task force erases the boundaries, so law enforcement can work together to reduce gang-related crime," said Kelvin N. Crenshaw, special agent in charge at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
A board of directors will oversee the task force; members will include a representative from each law enforcement agency, the four elected district attorneys, and the United States Attorney for the District of Oregon. Beaverton Police Chief David G. Bishop will chair the board.
The Metropolitan Gang Task Force grew out of a series of meetings between local and federal law enforcement agency leaders who met at the United States Attorney's Office to discuss gang-related issues.
Combating gang-related violence is a priority of the United States Department of Justice under the Project Safe Neighborhoods gun violence reduction initiative.
The task force will gather and share information and expertise with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to find and arrest gang members and their leaders.
The task force also will work to establish links to cases of national interest, coordinate gang-related intelligence through the National Gang Intelligence Center and provide a way to identify and address violent street gangs attempting to establish themselves within the metro area, said Portland FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert Jordan.
Bishop said the task force would improve coordination between local, state and federal agencies and "allow the agencies to take the gangsters off the street."
The task force will be housed at Portland Police Bureau's Northeast Precinct. Officers' salaries will be paid by the participating agencies. Other expenses for the task force, such as vehicles, overtime and equipment, will be paid for by the FBI.