Gresham unveils gang prevention plan

GRESHAM, Ore. -- Gresham Police are trying to stay ahead of gang violence which they say typically escalates when school lets out for the summer.

On Thursday, a large group of city leaders and community members met to prepare. The meeting including a number of groups, including Gresham's mayor, the police department and Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland.

"We certainly can't arrest our way out of it," said Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis. "We'll never give up on enforcement, but the prevention piece is equally as important."

This year Gresham has a gang outreach worker and a gang prevention policy advisor as part of that prevention effort. The gang prevention and enforcement plan also includes partnering with the Boys & Girls clubs to build a new facility in Gresham, plan a new summer recreation program for low-income children in city parks and invest in a new Rockwood Public Safety Facility.

"We know that as things are moving east, and gangs are marching east, and some of those issues that come with poverty are marching east, we've got our hands full. That's why the collaborative approach is so incredibly important. Bring everybody together. We can't do it alone," said Bemis.

Bemis says that the East Metro Gang Enforcement Team (EMGET) is doing great work as they make contact with gangs and document new gang members. EMGET was formed in 2005. So far in 2014, team members have identified 34 new gang members, seized 20 weapons and made 58 felony and misdemeanor arrests.

Police say gang members in East Multnomah County belong to one of more than 100 gangs. Five of Gresham's seven homicide cases in 2013 were gang-related.