EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) -- Reaching out to quell rumors and answer questions about gang violence, Eugene Police and other community groups are stepping forward to address the issue in the local area.
This coming weekend, a collective of community groups is holding three separate meetings to address gang violence in Eugene through a Gang Symposium Community Forum.
The forum is designed to figure out what questions people have about gangs in the local community in order to put together a larger summit later this year, 2012.
While for some, gang activity in Eugene sounds surprising, Eugene Police says the threat is real and it's growing.
Meanwhile, there are some misconceptions out there about gang activity as well.
A viewer contacted the KMTR NewsSource 16 newsroom recently about a concern of gang activity in the 5th Avenue area of Eugene. Rumors are out there amongst some community members that some alleged recent assaults are gang related.
The viewer who contacted our newsroom wrote about two alleged assaults. One over the weekend of April 7th, 2012, the other in the week before.
EPD informed NewsSource 16 about one of the alleged assaults, the other was not on record in the department.
Sometime in the last week, EPD says a group of people threw a knife at a car in the area of 3rd Avenue and Lawrence Street. According to police, the car occupants then got out of the vehicle and confronted the group, which lead to an assault where one of the car occupants was seriously injured.
EPD says this assault was not gang related.
Eugene Police Sergeant Scott McKee says while gangs are present in the Eugene-Springfield area, random gang assault on the public are about as common as random assaults committed by criminals outside of gangs.
EPD says at this point, most of what they're seeing with gangs is the growth of new groups and graffiti tagging. The department is urging people to be aware of the groups and their own kids activity. EPD says gang activity can start going after kids at young ages.
“Gang membership impacts kids at the level of elementary school. We know kids at that age were being recruited and groomed to get involved in gangs or be involved in gangs by adults,” says Sgt. Scott McKee of the Eugene Police Department.
“It is not something that the police department can deal with on their own, it really is a community problem,” says McKee.
EPD has made some gang arrests in the last year and a half. In December 2011, 18-year old Daniel Sotelo of Cottage Grove was arrested for his alleged role in an attempted murder. EPD says Sotelo tried to shoot a rival gang member in the Trainsong Neighborhood of West Eugene.
EPD also arrested 20-year old Barry Hasty in late 2011 for an alleged drive-by shooting of a neighborhood whistleblower's home in West Eugene's Trainsong Neighborhood.
The Eugene-Springfield Gang Symposium Community Forum will meet three times in the next few days to address questions for a large gang symposium planned for 2012.
The first meeting will take place on Saturday, April 14th, 2012, from 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m in the McNutt Room of Eugene City Hall in downtown Eugene on Pearl Street.
Two forums will be held on Tuesday, April 17th, 2012, from 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. and from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the Eugene Public Library's Singer Room.
For more information, contact EPD at 541-682-5124.