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Suburban gangs: King County group gets state grant to fight problem
Mirror staff reports:
In 2013, the Legislature recognized the problems that gang activities create for public safety and economic interests in cities such as Federal Way.
The Washington State Partnership Council on Juvenile Justice has selected three programs to receive state grant funding for criminal street gang prevention.
Grant recipients are the Suburban King County Coordinating Council on Gangs Implementation Plan, the City of Tacoma Neighborhood and Community Services, and the Benton/Franklin Counties Gang Prevention and Intervention Project.
Each grant is worth $133,000.
Later this year, the Suburban King County Coordinating Council on Gangs will release a comprehensive study of gang activity in suburban cities, with updated data from 2012. The council’s goal is to reduce youth violence and gang activity by fostering better communication among local law enforcement and governments.
The council has buy-in from South King County law enforcement agencies including Federal Way.
Retired Justice Bobbe Bridge founded the Center for Children and Youth Justice (CCYJ), which formed the gang council.
"This group has a real desire to make life better," Bridge told The Mirror.
She said social services are just as important as law enforcement when it comes to gang issues. One area where communities can make a positive impact is education, Bridge said. Whether a student receives a high school diploma or a college degree, education is seen as a path out of poverty and away from the temptations of the gang lifestyle.
"Education is essential to successful lives and higher self-esteem," she said. "A lot of kids have no role models and don't see college in their future."
A gang is a group of people who make money from criminal enterprises. Common crimes associated with gang activity include auto theft, burglaries, drugs and prostitution. Gang wars also lead to gun violence in public settings. A thread among gang-related activity is that most offenders live outside of the communities where they commit their crimes.
Gang members often grow up in dysfunctional households with a lack of positive role models and supervision, according to CCYJ. Gangs address the needs that aren't met by traditional institutions such as churches and schools.
By living under conditions that promote criminal behavior, young gang members are more likely to drop out of school or go to prison.
Bridge said programs like the Road Map Project are an example of how schools can leverage resources and pay attention to the kids who get overlooked.
The Road Map Project is a collaboration among seven area school districts to reduce the achievement gap among students. In December 2012, the project was awarded a $40 million grant from the U.S Department of Education's "Race to the Top" competition. The money will serve more than 261 schools and 150,000 students. Of those 150,000 students, 36,000 are considered high-need students.
The Suburban King County Coordinating Council on Gangs completed an assessment of suburban gangs in the spring 2013, and will develop a plan based on key findings. Scheduled for completion at the end of this year, the plan will include strategies for responding to gang violence, including coordinated efforts in gang prevention, intervention, enforcement and re-entry for juvenile offenders.