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Helen Silvis of The Skanner News
Published: 08 June 2012

Youth came together to talk about violence at the Rob
Ingram Youth Summit against Violence April 21 at
Highland Church. The event was organized by the
Multnomah Youth Commission.

UPDATE: Mayor Adams unveiled the strategy at Holladay Park, June 14.

Sometimes success is when nothing much happens. That was one of the messages from the Gang Violence Task Force meeting Friday June 8, at the Northeast Police precinct.

Royal Harris, who works with gang-affected young men, reported that regular basketball games at Peninsula Park have brought youth together to play without posing any problems. Several months ago, Harris asked parole and probation officers to allow their clients to take part in the games.

"They've had no incidents, no problems in or around the center," Harris said. "Most of the youth are doing a good job."

Also good news was a report that Connected, the group of adults who walk weekly in Holladay Park, had interrupted a fight and prevented serious violence. Part of the Church-led 11-45 group, Connected reaches out to youth in the park. Eleven:45 also is working with the DA's office to offer support to youth charged with a first crime.

But not all the news at the task force was good. With six incidents of gunfire in the last two weeks, and more than 300 over the year, the number of gang violence cases this year rose to 59. Last year at this time that number was 40. And it's a big rise from 2008 when the number of incidents for the entire year was 63.

Mayor Adams is slated to hold a press conference next Thursday, June 14 to talk about plans for this summer. An increase in violence is often seen during the summer months. Police say they are upping their visibility on the streets, while other gang task force members, including outreach workers, nonprofits and youth organizations, are gearing up to offer activities, jobs and support to youth this summer.
Two new community violence prevention also efforts are underway:
The East Portland Community Violence Prevention Meeting is at 6 to 8 p.m. June 20, at Papa's Pizza Parlor, 16321 S.E. Stark St. The East Portland Neighborhood Violence Prevention Committee is scheduled to meet on the third Wednesday of every month.
The Northeast Portland Community Violence Prevention Meeting will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. June 26 at the Northeast Police precinct, 449 N.E. Emerson St. The Northeast meeting will be held on the last Tuesday of each month.

Qualisha Carter spoke about gang violence at the Rob Ingram Youth Summit against Violence April 21.

The Office of Youth Violence prevention promotes the 360 degrees strategy, which combines efforts to keep youth on the right track through activities, education, family support and outreach to gang members with arrest and prosecution for violent crimes.

"We have over 800 documented gang members in the city and we can't arrest all of them," said "It's going to be about changing mindsets."

The meeting included a discussion about guns.

Russ Corno, a police officer with the gang enforcement team said more young people are carrying weapons, and so when arguments or fights break out they are more likely to shoot. When youth know they will be stopped and searched for weapons, they don't carry guns, Corno said, which makes for more opportunity to think and change their course before shooting.

"That definitely is a fact," he said. "The less they have firearms on them the less likely they are to spontaneously start shooting."

Harris said that arguments and fights increase the demand for guns, so preventing minor arguments from escalating is important. And Valerie Salazar, an outreach worker with IRCO, said young women have been at the heart of several recent fights in East Portland. Salazar said she believes more girls are carrying weapons.

Corno said police are watching the people they believe are most likely to use weapons.

"We definitely know who we need to target," he said. "It's a small percentage who are committing the violence."

From his enforcement perspective, Corno wants to see shooters prosecuted for the most serious crimes, instead of having charges reduced to lesser crimes. That's because if a youth has a felony conviction, they can be prosecuted for having a weapon when they return to the community.

"It's a hammer to maybe get them to change their behavior," he said.

Art Alexander, safety manager with Portland Parks, said we give youth the message that they need weapons. Video games like 'Call of Duty', for example, tell youth that shooting a gun is how you become a hero," he said.

"They are inundated with messages that say:

1. Guns are cool

2. You've got to have a gun, and

3. It doesn't matter because it's urban warfare out there."

For children in safe, healthy, comfortable environments, such messages may have little impact. Not so for children living in communities impacted by violence, Alexander said. Around University Park, for example, "We have a ton of 10-14 year-old kids out here playacting what they see in the community.

"How do we get resources there, so we can see a downward trend (in violence)?"

Alexander shared plans for summer youth programs in the parks, with free lunches, games, sports, gospel concerts and more. Parks directors try to make sure no kid is turned away for lack of funds, he said.

Andrew Perez, who shot his friend by accident also spoke at the Rob Ingram Youth Summit Against Violence. Perez wants other youth to avoid the pain and grief of hurting someone else. 

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