MORROW COUNTY - The recent violence in Irrigon, in which shots were fired at an apartment building, has prompted local law enforcement agencies and county officials to revive a gang task force in hopes of stopping gangs from gaining ground.

The task force has existed since the mid-1990s in Morrow County but has been mostly inactive the last few years.

"We didn't disband," Boardman Police Chief Mark Calbick said. "We just didn't meet for a few years."

The task force is now back in action.

"Basically it's an informational exchange," Calbick said. The group consists of law enforcement, school officials, county workers and others who can compare notes about any illegal activity that may be going on.

Meetings are held usually once a month and are not open to the public because confidential material is discussed, including gang members and who might be at risk of joining.

The cooperative effort can squash a gang before it has a chance to do too much damage, said Mike Beagen, vice president of the Northwest Invest- igative Association.

"Active policing will definitely put a damper on a small gang," Beagen said. Rural gang activity is rarely a long-term problem, he added, because kids grow out of it or move to metropolitan areas.

"Rural gangs for the most part tend to be short lived."

Despite those assurances, a town hall meeting has been scheduled in Irrigon on April 29 to discuss the rise of violence in the area.

Carolyn Holt, juvenile director in Morrow County and a member of the task force, routinely handles court cases involving youth who have gotten in trouble with the law.

She said even though gangs seem to come and go in the area, her recent experiences tell her there is a problem.

"It is on the rise again, let's put it that way," Holt said.

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