Gangs still intimidate, but quietly

And while some Asian gangs deal drugs, Galvez says, the dealing isn’t on the level of the larger black and Hispanic gangs. Instead, he says, local Asian gangs have opted for extortion, identity theft, gun trafficking, illegal gambling and robbery — within the Asian community — to finance their activities.

There are days when Adrian Galvez feels like half his job is trying to pry secrets out of people who don’t want to talk to him, but want his help.

A year and a half ago, Galvez says, a jewelry store owned by an Asian family in East Portland was robbed. But the family never reported the robbery to police. That means they can’t even file an insurance claim to recover their losses. The reason? The robbers were members of their extended family, with ties to a prominent gang. The store owner felt if he reported the crime to police, his family would be in danger.

But there is more than fear behind the victims’ silence, according to Galvez, who has met with the family numerous times in his role as youth gangs program coordinator for the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization.

“I could pull my teeth out and they still won’t go to the police. They’d rather (lose) a few thousand dollars than lose their respect in the community or have people think they are weak,” he says.

Some leaders of Portland’s Asian-American community insist that the violent Asian gangs of the 1990s have disappeared, and there’s virtually no organized Asian crime now. But others say there are a number of organized and semi-organized men and women preying on others within the community — gangs that don’t look like typical gangs.


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