(Washington D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) announced that the $500,000 she included in a 2010 spending bill for the Yakima County Gang Initiative has passed the full Senate. The program will develop service programs to address the most pressing needs and problems associated with youth gangs in Yakima County. It brings together a coalition of federal, tribal, and local law enforcement to work cooperatively on this issue.
“As gang violence continues to escalate in Yakima, it is critical that local agencies have the resources they need to combat it now and to prevent it in the future,” said Senator Patty Murray. “This funding will help Yakima County take a comprehensive approach to fighting gangs that ranges from working with at-risk students, to providing support to youth and their families as they transition out of gangs.”
The funding will allow law enforcement in Yakima County to put in place a comprehensive gang-fighting initiative that focuses on prevention, suppression, and intervention.
"Yakima County citizens stepped up to the plate in 2005 to support a 3/10th sales tax to fund law and justice programs in our county,” said Yakima Sheriff Ken Irwin. “Unfortunately, given the rapid increase in gang related crime and violence we need more assistance in the areas of gang prevention, intervention and suppression. We believe we need state and federal assistance in meeting this incredible challenge to our community.”
Prevention: This component will focus on establishing an environment in schools with zero tolerance for gang behavior. Gang members and at-risk youth are closely monitored and expanded services provide a healthy alternative to gang activity.
Suppression: This component provides crisis intervention assistance to law enforcement units immediately after a gang youth is picked up. Community service organizations provide case management, mentoring, referral, and ongoing work with parents and youths.
Intervention: The intervention component consists of Functional Family Therapy especially tailored for working with gang youths and their parents. Treatment for youth with mental illness and substance abuse problems will be available through an accredited treatment center. Educational and vocational training services will comprise another priority project focus.
Gang-related violence has been a growing problem in Yakima County and across the state in recent years, and with local budgets now facing large cuts, law enforcement agencies are expressing concern that it may become even more difficult for them to fight this emerging source of crime. For the five year period 2002-2007 the Final Report of the 2007 National Gang Survey by the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) reported a 60% increase in the overall number of gangs and an 80 percent increase in the number of gang members. The increase in numbers of gangs and gang members in Yakima County closely mirror these national statistics published by OJJDP.
Senator Murray is a leader in the Senate on combating gang violence. Earlier this year she helped introduce major legislation that would provide more than $1 billion for gang prevention across the nation.
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.