(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) today announced that she has sponsored major legislation in the 111th Congress that will combat gang violence in Washington state and across the nation. The bill, the Gang Abatement and Prevention Act of 2009, authorizes over $1 billion in federal funding nationwide for areas hard-hit by gang violence. The resources included in the bill can be used for law enforcement anti-gang efforts, prevention programs, and to target at-risk youth for gang intervention efforts. The legislation was introduced by Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA).
“Far too many communities and families across our state are being torn apart by gang violence,” said Senator Murray. “And as the economic recession continues, the need to step up anti-gang efforts will only increase. This bill uses prevention, intervention, and enforcement efforts to help keep our streets safe and gang members away from our children.”
Communities across Washington state have seen an increase in gang related activities in recent years. And with budget cuts looming, law enforcement officials have expressed concern that dwindling resources will hurt their ability to fight gang violence. The Gang Abatement and Prevention Act would help to keep anti-gang efforts funded at a time when they are needed most.
“The rise in gang violence is one of the most significant problems facing Washington State’s cities and counties,” said Don Pierce, Executive Director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. “The sheriffs and police chiefs of Washington state need federal resources to protect against gang violence, especially given this time of diminishing resources in our state.”
One community that has been particularly affected by gang violence has been the Yakima Valley. Today the Mayor and Police Chief of Yakima reacted to the introduction of this important legislation.
"While Yakima has taken a holistic approach to combat gang activity, we need substantive changes in federal law to help our already overburdened and underfunded programs become more effective. Senator Murray has been a champion on this issue, and this bill is another effective example of that commitment," said Yakima Mayor Dave Edler
"This bill works toward the heart of a public safety epidemic. Far too often, the law does not provide sufficient deterrent to gang activity, especially for juveniles. Senator Murray was really listening to us at her Law Enforcement Roundtable, and this bill is a great step in that direction," said Yakima Police Chief Sam Granato
Murray’s Targeted Gang Enforcement and Prevention Efforts
Senator Murray has also worked to fight gang violence in Washington state through targeted community prevention and law enforcement programs. Last year, Senator Murray secured $500,000 in a Senate spending bill for prevention efforts for at-risk youth in Pierce County that are exposed to or engaged in criminal behavior before they become gang members. In 2007, Senator Murray included $700,000 to help local law enforcement in Yakima increase anti-gang patrols, purchase new equipment and provide an increased neighborhood presence as part of the Citizens for a Safe Yakima Valley program.