An office in Portland City Hall is being created to focus solely on reducing youth violence, with a special emphasis on reaching out to gangs.
Over the past three years, the number of officially "designated" gang members has increased by 31.5 percent. Gang membership ranges in age from 10 to 35; the greatest numbers are between 15 and 29 years old.
Directing the new Office of Youth Violence Prevention will be John Canda, former executive director of Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods.
Appointed to the post by Portland Mayor Tom Potter, Canda has been involved in youth gang violence outreach and prevention efforts since 1990, and co-chairs the Youth Gang Violence Task Force. Through the task force, he has helped to establish and maintain an interdisciplinary approach to resolving youth gang issues citywide.
Canda also has managed the Youth Gangs Outreach Program and the Tri-Met Rider Advocate Program, worked for the Northeast Workforce Center and Friends of Children and was a public safety specialist for the Portland Police Bureau.
"Bringing together families, businesses and the faith community to focus on youth will make Portland a model in reducing violence among our young people," said Potter. "John's experience and deep community roots will enable him to bring immediate credibility to this effort."
The new office reflects priorities the mayor and City Council identified last fall to build a more family-friendly city and increase public safety. It will attempt to tackle the root causes of problems in neighborhoods rather than simply focus on policing efforts.
The Office of Youth Violence Prevention will research best practices and apply for grant funding to supplement local resources. It also will create a coordinating council that includes city bureaus, county, state and federal partners, business, schools and churches to guide the office's policies and address youth violence.