After one of the most violent weekends in years, North and Northeast Portland community leaders vowed yesterday mobilize their neighborhoods against gangs before summer, the Oregonian reports. The next step is a series of community forums where people can offer ideas and volunteer for what activists call a “rescue plan.”
At a corner where 14-year-old TyNiece McCorvey was shot in the head Sunday–one of five shootings in two days–Bradford Holman of the Coalition of Black Men said, “We come here as a call to anybody who can help. Please don’t let fear get in the way. Fear is what is holding this community back.” One police official calls it “a start, but an overwhelming start.”
In four days since Police Chief Derrick Foxworth urged unwilling witnesses to help police solve the shootings, donors have given more than $1,000 to the Coalition of Black Men’s reward fund for tips leading to arrests. Meanwhile, city officials may make a “weed and seed” proposal in which two or three neighborhoods hardest hit by gangs would be flooded with enforcement and outreach efforts.
The five shootings left two men dead. Three involved people with gang ties, but investigators have yet to say whether the shootings were gang-related.
In the summer of 1989, Gov. Neil Goldschmidt sent National Guard troops to Portland to free more police for street duty. Calling in the Guard isn’t planned now. In 1989, there were 599 gun assaults, compared with about 250 last year. Yet after years of funding and staffing cuts, there is concern that the city’s gang-fighting efforts are ill-prepared for a spike in activity.
Anticrime programs shrank as gang violence subsided in the late 1990s and an economic downturn tightened budgets. Foxworth said the city is in a far better position than it was 15 years ago. “We didn’t have the organization that we have, and we weren’t as knowledgable about gangs,” he said. “At least there is that awareness now, and things are in place.”