‘Safety Forum’ beckons leaders for gang and youth violence discussion

Discover how this confab may lead to action, as law enforcement and justice system leaders confer …

Inside the church’s Fellowship Hall, a Public Safety Forum brings together law enforcement and justice system leaders to talk about reducing gang and gun violence.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Lifetime Portland citizen, public safety advocate, and member of the Centennial Community Association, Ron Clemenson said that because “wringing one’s hands” and worrying about rapidly escalating gang, gun, and youth violence doesn’t do any good – he put together another “Public Safety Forum”.

Held on the morning of May 30, at Savage Memorial Presbyterian Church in outer east Portland, the meeting drew many leaders involved with law enforcement and the justice system took law enforcement and justice system.

Flanked by enforcement and justice system leaders, Portland Mayor Charlie Hales speaks at this Public Safety Forum.

Some of those on the dais included:

Portland Police Bureau (PPB) East Precinct Commander Dave Hendrie
Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office Gang Enforcement Deputy DeWayne McQueen
Sr. Deputy, Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office, Jim Hayden
Acting United States Attorney for Oregon Bill Williams
FBI Special Agent Brendan Dennard
City of Portland Crime Prevention Services Mark Wells


The first speaker was Portland Mayor Charlie Hales. “I am very troubled and saddened that literally every night we get another message from the Police Bureau about violence and tragedy involving young people in our city.

“We all have to do our part in the effort to change what has been taking place,” Hales continued. “I’m very glad you’re here to be part of this conversation.”

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales calls for more “positive adult influences” as a way to reduce violent youth crime.

Speaking of youths committing violent crimes, Hales told the group, “A lot of these kids don’t have a lot of positive adult influences in their life. I expect many of you in this room are mentors, in one way or another, for young people who are at risk. Please continue. If you’re not doing this, consider working with a young person.”

Hales continued, “There is a lot we can do as government. There is a lot we can do as law enforcement. And there is a lot we can do as citizens and neighbors and parents of these kids. Over time, [parental and adult involvement] will change these outcomes.”

Gazing at PPB East Precinct Commander David Hendrie, seated at the front table, Hales remarked, “At a meeting the other day, all three precinct commanders said they were glad to be assigned to the precincts that they want a work in. In the case of Commander Hendrie, it’s because he grew up in this part of the city.”

Asking the community to help solve crime problems is PPB East Precinct Commander David Hendrie.

Commander Dave Hendrie responded to the problem by reflecting, “We can’t be everywhere at the same time – and the fact is that citizen help is needed to make our city a safer place to live, work, go to school, and to play.”

Sr. Deputy Multnomah County District Attorney Jim Hayden told about the history of gangs in Portland. He said the entire system must transition from a mostly reactive enforcement response, to looking at the gang problem from all sides – with much more focus on community engagement and prevention.

Acting United States Attorney for Oregon Bill Williams says intervention at an early age is key to reducing violent youth crime.

Acting United States Attorney for Oregon Bill Williams told the group, “By the time they get to our offices, it’s often too late. We need to find ways to help these young people change the trajectory of their lives.”

After the forum, Clemenson spoke with East Portland News about the conference, held in outer East Portland.

“Those speaking and attending referred to this as an ‘All Hands On Deck’ forum, achieving the goal of bringing together the ‘major players’ to discuss the solutions needed to curb gang and youth violence,” Clemenson said.

More than 110 people attend this Public Safety Forum.

“The ‘take away’ consensus at the forum is, that parents, grandparents, friends and neighbors, school teachers, each and every citizen, need to join together in the vital effort to change the crime situation in its many forms – particularly gang and youth violence,” said Clemenson.

After the forum, Commander Hendrie told East Portland News, “We have resources and commitment to build relationships and improve livability in this area.

“And, I thought the compelling story of the woman saying she wanted to know her neighbors underscored everything we talked about— a community without community relationships is not a community,” added Hendrie. “We need neighbors to be involved, to take care of each other, and to care. This is a big ask, but I believe critical to the safety of our city.

One of the positive ways to get involved in making your neighborhood safer is to create a Neighborhood Watch, as suggested by City of Portland Office of Neighborhood Involvement Crime Prevention Community Involvement Specialist Mark Wells.

Starting a Neighborhood Watch program is a good first step, advises Crime Prevention Community Involvement Specialist Mark Wells.

“Get in touch with the Crime Prevention Coordinator assigned to your neighborhood,” advised Wells. “By ‘stepping up’ and becoming active, neighbors create a safer environment for the community as a whole.”

Clemenson had already taken his advice. “I signed up for a Crime Prevention ‘refresher class’ with Wells.”

In summary – the Forum, Clemenson said, “Was a success. But it does not end here; it is up to each and every one of us to do our part, and it does not take much time or effort to make it happen. Together, we can make a difference.”

Police respond to another “gang-related” shooting in outer East Portland.

Police shift resources to address gun violence
Perhaps because of the forum, the Police Commissioner – Mayor Charlie Hales – communicated to the Police Bureau, with urgency, the need to address the issue of gang and gun violence.

Three days after the forum, on June 2, PPB announced that six police officer positions have permanently been added to the Gang Enforcement Team, from each of the three precincts’ Neighborhood Response Teams and Street Crimes Units.

“While this impacts the work being done by Neighborhood Response Teams and Street Crimes Units, it has the least impact on patrol operations,” said PPB Public Information Officer Sgt. Pete Simpson.

A Crime Analyst is also being assigned to focus specifically on gang and gun violence, Simpson commented.

“The Bureau will be working with the Department of Community Justice (DCJ) to implement effective strategies and partnerships designed to hold those under court supervision accountable,” Simpson added.

As hot summer weather approaches, everyone hopes the strategies of crime prevention, apprehension, and criminal justice, will make the streets safer in the coming weeks.

© 2015 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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