Gang investigators from six area police agencies, representing four counties in the metropolitan Portland region will begin to work side by side with federal agents in a new Metro Gang Task Force to start operating July 1, reports the Oregonian. Oregon U.S. Attorney Karin Immergut said the task force’s mission will be to target the most violent gang offenders and organized gangs. U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales made gang enforcement a top federal priority last year and directed each district to come up with a gang strategy.
Portland Assistant Police Chief James Ferraris said fewer than 20 Portland gang enforcement officers are doing the work that about 40 Portland gang enforcement officers tried to do about 10 years ago. Ferraris called the new task force “a group of people who want to focus on the worst of the worst and take the leadership out. Gangs have gotten smarter. They’ve gotten less flashy, gone underground. Many have been in the criminal justice system, so they’re adept to prosecution and avoiding it. So we have to be smarter as to how we approach this problem, too.” Multnomah County Sheriff Bernie Giusto said the idea isn’t new. A similar gang task force was active in the late 1980s. “It’s really bringing back an old model,” Giusto said.