Group will fight illegal activity in four-county area

Beginning next week, the Gresham Police Department will be participating in a new task force to help combat gang activity in a four-county area.

The Metropolitan Gang Task Force will be made up of officers from the Beaverton, Gresham, Hillsboro, Milwaukie and Vancouver, Wash., police departments; the Portland Police Bureau; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and the FBI.

The goal of the task force is to find and apprehend gang members in Clackamas, Clark, Multnomah and Washington counties by gathering and sharing information and expertise among local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.

'People who are involved in gangs don't recognize city boundaries,' said Gresham Police Chief Carla Piluso.

Gresham's participation in the new task force will not replace its representation on the East Metro Gang Enforcement Team, but will allow officers to take a look at some of the bigger-picture issues, such as how gangs are formed, how they recruit new members and how they are funded, Piluso said.

The Gresham Police Department has seven representatives on the East Metro Gang Enforcement Team, which is made up of officials from the Fairview, Gresham and Troutdale police departments and the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office.

'This task force erases the boundaries, so law enforcement can work together to reduce gang-related crime,' said Kelvin Crenshaw, special agent in charge with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in a press release.

Discussion about a possible area-wide gang task force began in the fall, and Gresham officials immediately jumped on the idea, Piluso said, adding that it was too good an opportunity to pass up.

'It's really exciting,' Piluso said.

One of Gresham's patrol officers will be assigned to the new gang task force, which will be housed in the Portland Police Bureau's Northeast Precinct, Piluso said.

The participating agencies will pay the salaries of their officers, but the FBI will pick up the majority of the costs associated with the task force, such as vehicles and equipment.

A board of directors will consist of representatives from each law enforcement agency, the elected district attorney for each county, and the United States Attorney for Oregon. Beaverton Police Chief David Bishop will serve as board chairman.

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