Gresham Police join regional task force to curb growing violence across East County.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Gresham is joining a team to take on growing gun violence. Last month four people were injured after gunfire erupted at a Gresham motel.

Gresham Police arrived on March 18 at the Golden Knight Motel, 750 E. Powell Blvd., to find injured victims strewn around the property. The violence began in a room and spilled out into the hallways and parking lot — prompting police to describe the situation as "extremely complex." A 26-year-old woman, a 28-year-old woman and a 30-year-old man were all transported to the hospital with injuries.

The fourth victim eventually was arrested alongside two others for the shooting.

Across the region gun violence is on the rise — late last month a gun was fired during a Troutdale carjacking. Now the Gresham Police Department is joining a team attempting to solve the problem.

Gresham is coming alongside the Portland Police Bureau, Multnomah County Sheriff's Office, U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The plan is to deputize a contingent of local officers to focus exclusively on investigating gun violence and crimes involving firearms.

Those officers will be assigned to the Metro Safe Streets Task Force. The hope is the team will better be able to coordinate investigations, access federal forensic testing and resources, get better equipment and receive funding for overtime costs not funded by local agencies.

In Multnomah County, as of April, there have already been more than 30 homicides — half of which involved a gun. From the beginning of the year through April 6, there were 284 non-suicide shootings in the city of Portland. About 32% resulted in an injury.

The majority of the violence is occurring in Southeast Portland with the Hazelwood, Powellhurst-Gilbert, Centennial and Lents neighborhoods caught in the crosshairs. From January 2019 through February 2021, Hazelwood and Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhoods had more shootings than every neighborhood on the west side combined.

The victims are disproportionately Black. Despite only being 6% of the population of the Portland metro area, about 50% of those injured by guns are Black.

These trends are backed by Gresham Police officials, who described the number of shootings as "an unusually high number."

In 2019 there were 33 shootings with nine involving injuries within Gresham city limits. In 2020 there were 54 shootings with 15 involving injuries.

So far, 2021 is set to eclipse last year's shooting numbers.

You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.