Funds flow to gang task force

By Mara Stine
The Gresham Outlook, Jun 30, 2009

Thanks to some last minute political maneuvering, legislators restored funding for the region’s gang enforcement team.

This spring, Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson, D-Gresham, and representatives Nick Kahl and Greg Matthew, also Gresham-based Democrats, feared the East Multnomah Gang Team would fall victim to a struggling economy that left politicians scrambling to balance the state’s $15 billion operating budget for the next biennium.

All three legislators teamed to sponsor a bill aimed at securing $1.129 million for Multnomah County gang intervention services. The money would also fund the seven-member gang enforcement team, including a Gresham sergeant, two Gresham police officers, a Gresham administrative staffer, a Troutdale officer, a Fairview officer and a Multnomah County sheriff’s deputy.

“We’re still trying to put the numbers together, but it looks like we’ve almost got the funding to fully fund the East Multnomah Gang Task Force,” said Ron Papsdorf, Gresham’s Government Relations Manager.

Base funding for the unit was included in the Oregon Youth Authority’s budget; however, the unit and Multnomah County gang service both still faced a 20 percent cut.

A House bill approved on Monday, June 29, the last day of the 2009 legislative session, provided nearly $773,000 to restore those cuts with an additional $800,000 for the East Multnomah Gang Enforcement Team, Papsdorf said.

Rep. Chip Shields, D-Portland, said in a press release the cuts were not only restored but funding for East County gang enforcement actually increased.

Testimony from Gresham Police Chief Craig Junginger, and members of the gang team, helped persuade legislators that the increased funding was needed, particularly in light of a gang-related double homicide in Gresham on New Year’s Eve, said Monnes Anderson.

The shooting was part of an escalating gang war in Portland that trickled over to a Rockwood apartment complex and claimed the lives of two teens. The shooting capped a record-breaking year of gang violence in Portland, where the city’s gang enforcement team saw a 70 percent jump in its caseload.

The East Multnomah Gang Enforcement Team formed in 2005 after legislators toured local gang violence hotspots, including the scenes of an execution-style double homicide in Rockwood. As a result, the Legislature allocated $1.5 million to fund the anti-gang unit.

The team investigates gang-related crimes, documents gang members, provides a higher level of police presence in gang-affected areas, works with at-risk youths to keep them out of gangs, educates parents and the community about gangs, trains other gang units and works with regional units on gang-related missions.

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