Recent gang violence in Portland has taken the lives of two young men, and wounded a five-year-old boy. And in general, gang activity in Multnomah County is up significantly compared with this time last year. Mayor Charlie Hales called the violence a “public safety and public health crisis.”
The effects of this violence are far reaching and intergenerational, according to Antoinette Edwards. Edwards is the director of the office of Youth Violence Prevention at the city of Portland and directs the Gang Enforcement Task Force, which includes law enforcement. We spoke with her after a recent weekend effort by police officers to “cool down” the activity. Edwards says the factors contributing to gun violence are complex, and so too are the solutions. In our conversation earlier this month, she mentioned a program called 11:45, among others, designed to interrupt the cycle of gang violence. The program involves mentorship and other support for youth who are in the criminal justice system but who have not become too deeply involved with gangs.
We begin an occasional series looking at different responses to prevent gang violence around the state with an exploration of this Portland program.
- George Merriweather: Senior pastor of the Northeast Community Fellowship Church; Member of the 11:45 executive team
- Stefan Spruill: 11:45 Mentor; custody service specialist in the Multnomah County Department of Community Justice
- Januel Zermeno: Mentee in the 11:45 program
- Eric Zimmerman: Deputy district attorney for Multnomah County