(Washington D.C.) - Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) announced that the $1 million she included in a 2010 spending bill for important youth violence prevention efforts in Seattle and King County has passed the full Senate. The bill contains $300,000 for the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative (SYVPI), $300,000 for the King County Sheriff’s Office School Resource Officers Program (SRO), and $400,000 for the King County Sheriff’s Office Gang Intervention Initiative.
"This funding will help teenagers in Seattle and King County find the connections they need to succeed in school and in life and keep them out of violent gangs and the criminal justice system." said Senator Murray. "It will help keep our schools and our streets safe."
Gangs pose a growing threat in Seattle and King County and both have experienced rising gang activity over the past year. The 2009 National Gang Threat Assessment indicates increased gang activity in the Pacific Northwest and reports that in some communities gangs are responsible for as much as eighty percent of all violent crime.
These programs are proven responses to violence and gang activity that threaten public safety and our children’s future. The SYVPI targets communities in the southeast, southwest, and central areas of Seattle with higher concentrations of youth violence than other areas of the City and brings together a coalition of law enforcement, mentors, churches, schools, social services providers and community leaders to provide prevention services for at-risk youth. The SYVPI will enhance safety for these families and increase the likelihood that their youth will finish school, engage in positive activities, and become contributing members of their communities.
“The time has come for the city and our community to fundamentally change our overall strategy on preventing youth violence,” said Mayor Greg Nickels. “I am asking neighbors, families, schools, churches, service workers and community members to come together and join our efforts.”
The King County Sheriff’s Office School Resource Officers Program places full-time deputies in schools and serves over 23,000 K-12 students in King County. School Resource Officers help develop safety and security policies and are often able to stop arguments before they erupt into violence in our schools and on our streets. This funding would enable this ongoing program to meet the growing security needs in King County schools and the expectations of parents and students regarding school safety.
“Demand for the SRO program has grown annually for the past 10 years,” said King County Sheriff Sue Rahr.” It is an exceptional community-based program that builds critical and life-long relationships between cops and our kids. Especially in tough economic times, our school administrators, teachers and our kids need the cops in the hallways as mentors, leaders, and protectors.”
The King County Sheriff’s Office Gang Intervention Initiative includes a new comprehensive Gang Intervention and Juvenile Detention Diversion Program. The Gang Intervention Initiative is intended to prevent juvenile gang activity through intervention, mentoring, education, and enforcement. Through a collaborative approach, this program will leverage and coordinate the expertise and resources of the King County Sheriff’s Office, county government, the courts, non-profit organizations, and the community to address the challenges of gangs and juvenile delinquency in a proactive and comprehensive manner.
“We have learned that simply focusing on the enforcement aspect of a problem is not enough,” said King County Sheriff Sue Rahr. “We have to approach the resurging gang and youth violence problem with a comprehensive strategy that touches the lives of vulnerable children and families before they are recruited into the ranks. We have to work with our courts and provide on-the-street alternatives for kids to juvenile detention. We have to commit to be there for them from the time they leave the front door to the time they return to the front door—wherever home is. And we have to actively engage the entire community to make it all work.”
The funding was included in the fiscal year 2010 Senate Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill, which passed the Senate today by a vote of 71-28. Senator Murray is a senior member of the Appropriations Committee.