PORTLAND -- Police warn when the weather warms up they typically see an uptick in gang violence. On Friday, officers and community leaders hit the streets with a goal to reduce violence and improve neighborhood safety.
Budget cuts have forced the Portland Police Bureau to eliminate two positions from the Gang Enforcement Team at a time of year when gang violence tends to spike.
“It’s become the epicenter of a lot of gang activity," said Lt. Vince Elmore with Portland police.
That’s why police and community leaders were at an apartment complex at 160th Avenue and East Burnside Street.
Elmore said their goal is to take the complex from gang control return it to the renters.
"Some of these gangs had felt that they had taken over these apartment complexes and we made them aware that they were not going to do that,” he said.
The task Friday did not include arrests. Instead, organizers said the patrols are more about making their presence felt.
Working alongside police was Warner Eugene Davis, a deacon at a local church. He's found people who won't talk to police will often talk to him.
Davis has been doing the patrols with police for weeks, and he feels they're working. Gang shootings are down compared to a year ago, but not everybody is convinced the outreach solves the problem.
Desiree McClendon said even if police force gangs out of this neighborhood, they'll pop up somewhere else.
“I mean, it’s good that they’re trying to clean this but when they’re done here they’re going to go somewhere else,” she said.
It's a battle Elmore and Davis said is worth fighting, especially during the summer months when police see more gang violence.
The community patrols will continue throughout the summers, and they're focusing on all of east Portland.
KGW reporter Mark Hanrahan contributed to this report.