Portland gang enforcement officers talk safety following spike i - KPTV - FOX 12

Portland gang enforcement officers talk safety following spike in crime

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Another gang-related shooting Tuesday afternoon in northeast Portland makes for nine gang shootings in last couple of weeks, according to Portland Police.

Officers are investigating the latest shooting after a suspect drove by another car and fired several rounds in the Sabin neighborhood just before 3:30 p.m. 

Police said the victim was in his car in the area of Northeast 12th Avenue and Failing Street when someone drove by and fired multiple shots at him, striking his car.

The suspect fled the scene and the victim crashed into a telephone pole. 

Officer Charlie Asheim was one of the gang-enforcement officers who responded to the scene.

“A young man just driving near his house, and basically out of nowhere, somebody pulls up next to him and lights his car up,” Asheim said. “An inch or two the other way, and that could be a murder scene. That’s pretty scary. It’s broad daylight in a neighborhood.”

Asheim, along with fellow gang-enforcement officer, Derek Carmon, took FOX 12 on a ride-along to that area, as well as other neighborhoods recently hit by gang violence.

“We’ve investigated nine shootings in the last two weeks and 27 for the year,” Asheim said. “By far, the majority of them are all connected back-and-forth.”

Compared to this time last year, gang-related violence is up 23 percent. 

Police believe many of the shootings are connected and are acts of revenge, after a couple gang-related murders in January.

“I knew both those guys (that were killed) and that makes me sad,” Asheim said. “That’s a waste of life.”

In Tuesday’s shooting, police believe the victim was an innocent man who was likely mistakenly targeted as someone else. 

“He was extremely lucky he wasn’t injured or killed,” Asheim said. 

Over the last week, FOX 12 spoke to several neighbors who have recently witnessed shootings, or had their homes or property hit by gunfire in northeast Portland. 

Ashiem said he knows they don’t feel safe. 

“They just happen to live here, and they have stray bullets zipping through their house. It could hit and kill one of them,” Ashiem said. “It’s terrible.”

And when it comes to these crimes, there are no easy answers or solutions. 

These days, there are fewer gang-enforcement officers on the streets. 

“We’re half the size we were just two years ago,” Asheim said. 

To keep up, officers told FOX 12 they focus on targeted efforts to seize guns from those who can’t legally have them, try to get criminals off the streets and build connections in the neighborhoods they serve.

“We’re definitely going to do what we can and do our job to investigate these crimes – bring justice for victims – but the community as a whole has to wrap around it and look at what they can do to make it safer for their community,” Asheim said. 

Portland Police said a gang enforcement mission Tuesday yielded several seized guns. 

Despite the recent spike in the violence, overall gang crimes have dipped following a bike spike in 2015. 

Still, officers are investigating nearly double the amount of gang-related cases since 2009. 

Anyone with information about unsolved gang shootings is asked to contact the Gang Enforcement Team at 503-823-4106.

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