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Photo Credit: KOIN 6 NEWS - Members of the cycling community, and North Portland residents, take part in the ‘Take Back the Streets' bike ride Sunday, August 24. All of the people former gang member Demarcus Preston knew when he was involved with gangs are either incarcerated or dead.

That’s why he wants to prevent youth from joining gangs, but also offer active members a way out, by bringing the community together.

“I know the importance of giving these kids something to do,” he said.

To bring awareness to the growing issue of gang violence in Portland, and to call for solutions, Preston and others organized the “Take Back the Streets” ride held Sunday.

“The violence is in the late hours, so we need to give the kids something to do,” he said.

Sports are a clear solution, but after-school sports end, and organized sport are expensive. “We need to try and find a way to let these lower income kids play sports without paying $200 to $300,” Preston said.

Preston said the ride was intended to bring the community together, and to call for solutions to gang violence, such as low barrier activities and sports for low income kids.

The ride, attended by roughly 100 people, began at New Columbia’s Bike Repair Hub in North Portland, and finished with a BBQ and speeches.

The Community Cycling Center joined the initiative after Preston and Jason Washington, of Brothers Gaining Equality Through Excellence, reached out.

Increase in violence

Since June 30, there have been at least 11 gang-related shootings in Portland, leaving two dead and five wounded. Preston is calling for safe places for gang members to go.

“It’s important to get out here and stop the violence,” he said. “Get the community to wake up and see what’s going on.”

This is all easier when people know their neighbors, and the members of their community.

He said hopefully, this ride will wake the community up. Still, Preston said he remembers a time when sports was a main focus for youth.

“No matter what hood you were from, baseball and football is what you bragged about. Now it’s gangs, cliques, different hoods. It’s going to get worse if we don’t do anything,” he said.

Seeking a safe way out

“There’s no program where a gang member can walk in and say ‘I want to change my life,’ said Preston.

He said he knows active gang members who want to get out, but they don’t have a choice because there is no safe haven or program for them to do so.

A mayor’s task force on gang violence continues to keep working towards a gang violence free community and reduced crime through awareness.

Although there are multiple prevention programs, there is no program specifically for exiting the gang lifestyle.

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