So far, 2008 has seen a record high number of shots-fired reports investigated by the Portland Police Gang Enforcement Team.
A total of 41 call-outs had been posted as of Aug. 6 – already one incident more than all of last year.
In 2003, 46 were investigated; 45 in 2004.
"And we still have a few months to go," said officer Jason Hubert.
The statistics were delivered at a meeting of the Youth Violence Prevention Committee last Friday morning at the Portland Police Northeast Precinct.
"It's been crazy out there," Hubert told the gathering. "There was a lull for about five years and now these kids are coming out, and some are very violent people."
Hubert reported that one shooting occurred after the low-rider show at the Portland Expo two weeks ago, one block from Northeast Precinct – about 40 yards away from two police officers.
"We're going back to the early '90s where the kids don't care," he said.
"I'm out there and I'm not seeing anyone stop anyone and talk to these young people," said Ronisha Harris, founder of the Respect Project. "I just think we need to get out there and be with these kids."
"You will never be able to reach all the kids because some of them are in the life," said CREW Director Pernell Brown. "You have to wait it out, also target the ones on the edge, who aren't totally in it yet — so don't get discouraged because you talk to these kids and they just go out anyway."
Harris said Measure 11 mandatory minimums are at the heart of the problem.
"You take young kids and put them away until they're adults, they're going to be mentally affected when they come out," she said at the meeting. "So instead of just talking about these kids, let's reach these kids."
City outreach staff reported that youth who have been gathering outside the King neighborhood facility have become rowdy and triggered 9-1-1 calls.
"Yesterday we had a fight there," said Multnomah County Community Justice Manager Jan Bishop. "We're now working with police to arrange more patrols."
Native American Youth and Family Center Prevention Coordinator Glenn LaMotte said that he and others who work with kids are hampered by the city's rules regarding how and whom they can approach for services.
"The way this works, I can't work with a kid unless I get this fancy piece of paper," LaMotte said. "Kids 11, 14 years old, stand on the street corner sometimes for a couple of years until we can help them.
"Mom or Dad has to sign off — Mom works nights and Dad is always out of town."
Rob Ingram, director of the city's Office of Youth Violence Prevention, praised the efforts of outreach workers and officers, and warned that resources to support their work are not set to increase anytime soon.
"We've got five outreach workers to cover the area from Interstate to Troutdale," he said. "We are talking about the resources we need — when the resources diminish, can you do the things you need to do?"
Lieutenant Michael Leloff, tactical operations chief of the Gang Enforcement Team, told The Skanner the current shots fired statistics are conservative.
"Sometimes we don't get called," he said. "Aggravated assaults are down, so something's going right, but gang shootings are going up — we're back in an upward trend."
He encouraged neighbors to call the police to report dangerous activity.
"Sometimes that's the piece of the puzzle we need," Leloff said.
For more information about Harris' outreach organization, the Respect Project, email [email protected].