EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) – A first step for Lane County on Saturday as hundreds of local residents came together for the very first Lane County Gang Prevention Forum.
About 300 people showed up to the first ever Gang Prevention Forum, hoping to learn about the prevalence of local gangs and form a plan of action to deal with the issue.
The effort has been more than a year in the making. Lane County leaders say while many question the prevalence of gangs in our community, they say there is a growing number of people in gangs and issues that could lead to their local growth.
A sociologist, Dr. Randy Blazek made one of the key presentations Saturday, highlighting factors leading to the rise in gangs in the 80's. Dr. Blazek says among the various factors included a disinvestment in job training programs and a lack of out of school programs for youth.
Some organizers see the same things happening today, putting youth at risk.
"The least expensive and most effective way of reducing crime and reducing involvement in gangs is through prevention and I hope that's one of the most critical and robust components of the strategy that comes out of this,” says Chief Pete Kerns of the Eugene Police Department.
"We're looking for champions, folks who want to address these kinds of issues and help us build a healthier and safer Lane County,” said John Aarons, assistant director of Lane County Youth Services.
A big part of the emphasis at the forum Saturday was that it will take a community to combat gang issues locally. Representatives from police, youth services, churches, schools and others joined the conversation as well.
"Just coming back to job training programs, education, activities, arts, music, and things that pull in students,” says Londa Roccholz, assistant vice principal at Churchill High School.
"To see this many people working together towards dealing with it is I think a great confidence builder,” said Brad Lane, a pastor at a Eugene church in the Trainsong neighborhood.
Organizers recorded the gang prevention forum today and plan to put together a video about the experience soon. Another symposium is scheduled for April 2013. Out of that one organizers hope to put together "action items" that may lead to new gang prevention programs.
April's forum will require a "sign-up" ahead of time. It's not available yet but there is a website you can check for sign-up: http://www.lanecountygangprevention.org/