PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) – A shooting outside a local park not only injured a 20-year-old woman, it also brought the city to its highest level of gang violence in more than two decades, police said on Friday.
Since January 1, 2015, 118 cases have been assigned to the Portland Police Bureau’s Gang Enforcement Team (GET). The last time gang violence was this high was in 2012 in which the annual total was 118.
Over the last five years, the city has averaged an annual total of about 100-106 incidents of gang violence. Police started keeping Gang Violence Response Team (GVRT) data in 1998.
The gang unit has recovered more than 700 rounds of ammunition since the beginning of the year, police said.
On Friday, Portland Police Capt. Matt Wagenknecht, who supervises the Tactical Operations Division (TOD) and GET, said the division has recovered 142 firearms to date. Across the bureau, Wagenknecht said there have been “a whole lot more” guns recovered.
Lt. Mike Krantz, a TOD supervisor, says “a good percentage” of the firearms are stolen. Wagenknecht said most of the guns being seized are happening during traffic and subject stops.
According to Portland Police East Precinct Commander Dave Hendrie, ¾ of the guns being taken off the street are coming from East Precinct.
“I’m amazed at the types of shootings we’re having,” Hendrie reported on Friday at a community meeting. He said the violence is “happening in front of kids and moms.”
The shooting that happened Monday at King School Park in northeast Portland is an example of the violence occurring during daylight hours. The shooting occurred around lunchtime at what would have normally been a busy park had school been in session.
“We’re very lucky no students were on the playground,” said Portland Public School Director of Security George Weatheroy. Police recovered 18 rounds of ammunition from the shooting, GET supervisor Sgt. Don Livingston said.
The victim, Anastasia Madison, was shot in the hand, according to family members. Police said she is a gang associate.
“Targets of opportunity” is how Hendrie describes most of the people who have been shot. Police, however, stressed with so many bullets being fired, it has been sheer “luck” that more innocent bystanders haven’t been harmed.
On Aug. 12, officers responded to reports of a shooting at Rocky Butte Park. Three people were shot. The gang unit recovered 8 shell casings at the scene. Detectives learned there was a fight between two gangs, one from Washington County.
Officers continue to work to stop crime before it happens. They said increasing staffing levels in the gang unit has allowed them to prevent acts of violence. Officers tell KOIN 6 News that they believe their efforts are paying off, despite the increase in violence.
Portland Mayor Charlie Hales, in a statement on Friday, described the 118 GVRT cases as a “terrible milestone.”
“Gun violence and youth violence have escalated nationwide, driven by the resurgence of cocaine, the epidemic of human trafficking and sexual exploitation, entrenched unemployment and poverty, and easy access to far too many firearms.
The Portland Office of Youth Violence Prevention has launched the “Enough Is Enough” campaign aimed to getting community members to take a stand against gang violence. On Friday, the department’s policy manager, Tom Peavey, described the violence as a regional problem.
“Everyone is suffering what we’re suffering,” he said. “We need to be faithful in what we do individually.”
In 2013 and 2014, police responded to a total of 106 and 109 gang related incidents respectively.