East Portland’s police are working to reduce gang activities and violent crime

With statistics showing violent crime – and gang activities – on the rise, learn what the Portland Police Bureau is doing in East Precinct to address these public safety issues …

Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Commander Michael Reese shares information with neighbors, at the East Precinct Citizen’s Advisory meeting.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
After seeing a decrease in robberies, and other violent person-to-person crimes, over the last couple of years, these events are again on the uptick, neighbors learned at the April 6 East Precinct Citizen’s Advisory meeting.

“Robberies were up 13% over last year,” stated Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Commander Michael Reese, as the meeting got underway. “We’re seeing an increase in robberies – especially along the [Gresham-bound] MAX Light Rail corridor, and on the new bike trail and I-205 MAX corridor.”

Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Sergeant Scruggs spoke up, noting that the “Oxi Bandit” hit numerous outer East Portland pharmacies, accounting for some of the increase in robberies.

Dealing with MAX crime
Typically, crime around the MAX stations have been caused by suspected gang members who follow riders off the MAX train, or are waiting on the platform, and then rob them after the train has left the station.

“Crime analysis said that, in eight of these cases, a knife and handgun was used in the robberies,” Reese revealed. The Commander added that he himself often runs along the I-205 multi-use path. “On one occasion, I was cased by a person I suspect was a gang member, riding a bicycle, when I jogged. Nothing happened, but I got a long, hard look.”

Although he was in uniform, here, when we photographed him leaving a recent SE Portland incident, Commander Reese says a possible gangster thug closely looked him over when he was jogging, casually dressed, on the I-205 multi-purpose path.

An area of special concern, Reese noted, is the MAX Light Rail Line, especially between the SE Division Street and Foster Road stations. “There have been many pedestrian robberies at the transit centers, and up near the Subway shop on SE Division Street.”

Special enforcement police officers have been assigned to focus on areas near the MAX lines, said Reese. “TriMet is also stepping up enforcement.”

Burglaries and car prowls increase
Burglaries have increased in outer East Portland by 36%, neighbors were told. “This is a city-wide trend,” Reese stated. “Our detectives are focusing in patterns in certain neighborhoods. We know who many of the key individuals involved in these crimes are.”

Additionally, he said there has been a 10% spike in car prowls [breaking into parked cars], especially along 82nd Avenue. “A reminder: Never leave valuables – or items that look as if they could be valuable – visible in your vehicle.”

Gangster opens fire through door
Turning to gang-related crime, Reese brought up three recent gang-related shootings that took place east of the Willamette River. Well-publicized were the Lloyd Center shootings, and the gang “hit” on SE 87th Avenue off Division (to read our coverage, CLICK HERE). But, he then related lesser-known story of a suspected gangster shooting through the front door of an outer East Portland home.

Not long ago, Reese told the group of about 45 neighbors gathered for the meeting, a suspected gangster approached the door of a house near SE 84th Avenue and SE Brooklyn Street.

“An eleven-year-old came down the stairs – clearly visible through windows in the door – to answer it,” Reese related. “The subject outside fired eleven rounds through the closed door. It was impossible not to see that a child was at the door. Although everyone agrees that this violence against a child is clearly unacceptable behavior, we have few leads on this case.”

Formerly one of East Precinct original meth-busters, Sgt. Tony Passadore – now with the Bureau’s Gang Team – answers questions about the increase of gangster-related violence in outer East Portland.

Combating gang crime
With that, Reese introduced Sgt. Tony Passadore, with the Bureau’s Gang Team.

Passadore is well known to our readers, having been part of the original East Precinct “Tired of Tweekers” team members which fought to stem the flood of methamphetamine that rolled over outer East Portland in the early 2000s.

“The structure of our Bureau’s Gang Team as changed,” began Passadore. “We’ve gone back to having uniformed as well as non-uniformed officers. We work with the Hotspot Team, and have ‘gang liaison officers’ working here at East Precinct. We share intelligence and information. Where we see an increase in gang-related crime activity, we bring in additional resources. Because of this, we have made arrests.”

Without going into sufficient detail to jeopardize pending cases, Passadore said that he believes there is a correlation between the two recent outer East Portland gang shootings. “So far, three individuals have been arrested, one charged with murder; two with attempted murder. The good news is, these individuals are off the street; they have a history of violence.”

Gangsters move to East Portland
Passadore continued, “The bad news is we’ve seen more gang activity from SE 82nd Avenue of Roses east to SE 92nd Avenue; a bit of it has spread into Lents Park.”

Another area of increased gang activity, Passadore said, is along the MAX Light Rail line along E. Burnside Street, near 160th Avenue. Another is near SE 122nd Avenue and SE Gladstone Street. “They’ve gone from North Portland, to Gresham, and are coming back to East Precinct.”

Older gang members, many of them released from prison, are moving back in with their families – who once lived in North Portland but now live in the East Portland area, Passadore explained. “If they are now good productive members of society, we’re happy. If they’re involved in suspicious activity, we’re watching them. We’re taking a more pro-active approach of contacting suspected gang members, and suppressing their [illicit] activity.”

Asked to define “suspicious activity”, Passadore advised to be on the lookout for many people coming and going from house – a sign drug sales may be taking place. “Congregating in the street is unnatural behavior. Circling blocks in vehicles is suspicions – they’re often looking for a crime of opportunity, including shooting at other gang members.”

Sgt. Passadore says that gang activity is increasing, because more gang members are moving to outer East Portland – a concern that hasn’t gone unnoticed.

‘Instant parties’ cause problems
Thanks to modern electronic communication, police are facing a new law enforcement phenomenon – large “instant parties” attended by young people.

“We’ve seen a trend of these large parties; [publicized by] texting, Twitter, and e-mail,” Passadore continued. “We don’t necessarily run in and butt heads. But we look for new faces in the crowd. Sometimes we’ll send officers to homes and tell parents their kid may be involved in potential gang activity. If you see this happening in your neighborhood, and you feel fear, call 9-1-1.”

Says they rely on information from citizens
As good intelligence as they may have, Bureau East Precinct Sgt. Dave Golliday told the group that it also helps when neighbors call in reports of gang activity to 9-1-1. “I assign officers to cover areas with more gang activity, partly based on calls from neighbors. All of the Bureau’s divisions share information, including about gang activity. Citizen information helps us use our resources well.”

As an example, Golliday said, during the gang shooting on SE 89th Avenue near Division Street, “People called in and narrated what they were seeing at the scene. That information is very important to us.”

Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Sgt. Dave Golliday says citizen phone reports do help them quell gang activity.

Don’t get involved with or try to talk with gangsters, Golliday advised those at the meeting. “This doesn’t mean calling in on a report of someone walking down the street. But, if there are people gathered, especially wearing gang attire, let us know.”

It’s especially important to be watchful, Passadore added, during the upcoming summer months. “We’re working to reduce gang activity right now, because during the summer months, it tends to increase.”

Typical gang attire
Asked to define what “gang attire” looks like, Passadore cautioned, “First, just because you see certain articles of clothing, don’t make the mistake of identifying them as a gang member. It could be a person with a very poor fashion sense! But when one wears several items of gang-related clothing, it serves as an indicator.”

  • Hoovers” tend to wear the color orange, baseball hats with the Houston Astros logo, or a 5-star design – and red tennis shoes with orange laces.
  • Unthank Park” usually wear the color green. They’ll also wear the color red to identify themselves as a set of the “Bloods” gang. They wear green shoes with red laces; and may hang out with the Hoovers.
  • Kirby Krips” wear the color blue. They sport Kansas City Royals baseball hats, or have embroidered hats with “Killer” or “RIP” in memory of a slain gang member.
  • Rolling  60s” also a subset of the Krips also wear blue, and often wear Seattle Mariners baseball caps.

In addition to arresting gangsters, Passadore says his team are also working to divert young people from gang life by showing them better options.

Says police prefer prevention to incarceration
“We continue to work with our ‘Gang Outreach’ Teams,” Passadore said. “We’re trying to find, and communicate with, the kids who are ‘reachable’. Once they’ve shot or killed someone, they are pretty much stuck in gang life.”

Officers are working – starting in the lower grades – to help kids resist the temptation of gangs. “We’re trying to get the kids who can still be encouraged to stay in school or get into a job program,” Passadore concluded. “Our hope is to have a smaller gang problem by having smaller gangs. We’re doing our best to take away their ‘target recruits’ by showing these young people that they can have a better life, an education, and good job – leading to a real future.”

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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