(Washington D.C.) - Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) announced that she has included $500,000 for the Pierce County Comprehensive Regional Gang Prevention Initiative in an important  Senate spending bill. The Pierce County gang initiative aims to help at-risk youth that are exposed to or engaged in criminal behavior before they become hardened criminals. The funding that Senator Murray secured is part of the 2009 Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill. Senator Murray is a senior member of the Appropriations Committee.

"This funding will help show Pierce County teens in jeopardy of joining gangs that there is another way," said Senator Murray. "It will provide at-risk youth with the skills and opportunities they need to change their lives and will motivate those around them to do the same. It will also lead to safer streets and improved communities in Tacoma and throughout Pierce County."

The Pierce County Comprehensive Regional Gang Prevention Initiative brings together a team of prevention specialists, police, prosecutors, schools, health and community based organizations to work collaboratively throughout Pierce County to identify services for youth and their families impacted by drugs, violence and gang-related issues. They are currently in the first phase of implementing the Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) Comprehensive Gang Prevention Model that brings the combined power of community mobilization, prevention, intervention, and suppression resources together to reach youth and families at risk of gang involvement. 

“The regional partnership for gang prevention is a powerful alliance that builds networks so our youth can truly have a chance for healthy and safe lifestyles," said Priscilla A. Lisicich, Executive Director of the Tacoma Safe Streets Campaign. "I believe we, as community members and workers, are called to do everything we can to create a sense of hope – giving our youth the possibility for a healthy, safe and happy future.  That means we must stay committed to working together and to build sustainable programs for futures with hope rather than despair.  This funding gives us resources to work together collaboratively and provide critical services to gang impacted youth and families thereby creating positive futures for hundreds of youth.”

Pierce County law enforcement officials report that the threat of gangs is on the rise with more than 1000 active gang members throughout Pierce County.  The Drug Enforcement Administration’s 2007 National Drug Threat Analysis concludes that the Pacific Coast Region has emerged as a distribution center for wholesale quantities of illicit drugs and lists the Puget Sound/Tacoma area as increasingly impacted by criminal gangs that are the most prolific producers, transporters and distributors of narcotics.  The Washington State Sheriffs and Police Chiefs Association’s 2007 report to the legislature outlines how police, parents, school officials and communities are frustrated with the limited resources and approaches designed to mitigate the results of gang activity.

The CJS Appropriations bill will now go to the full Senate for consideration.