Fed up by recent shootings in Portland, gang outreach worker John Canda put out this call for action on his Facebook page, The Oregonian reports: “I need 100 strong men who are not afraid to stand with me in the streets of Portland to speak with youth who are robbing, stealing, selling drugs and gang banging who are shooting up our neighborhoods and killing each other. This needs to end now!” Last night, he urged the 33 who attended his first meeting to help him walk the city streets at night and on weekends to talk to teenagers so they don’t resolve their disputes with guns.
Canda’s efforts come amid a wave of shootings, and three teenagers killed since March 19. Gang violence response team officers have been called to crime scenes 27 times this year, compared to 20 by the end of April 2010. Last year, the team had 93 call outs for gang-related violence, up from 68 in 2009. Canda has been doing gang outreach for more than two decades. He said he is motivated by the desire to keep his family and community safe. Building relationships with the teenagers, he acknowledged, won’t happen overnight but needs to be a sustained effort. The simple presence of adults in the city’s hot spots could help deter the violence, he argued. “We have to be in the places they are,” Canda said. “You’re not going to be able to round up a group of kids and, take them up to the precinct and say, ‘OK, tell us whatever you know.’ ”