Letters to the Editor

Youth violence is a community issue | Federal Way letters

As leaders in the Federal Way community, we’ve noticed the topic of gang activity coming up more often. In fact, a meeting at City Hall last week may have given the wrong impression about gang activity in Federal Way.

We want you to know that the Federal Way School District and the City of Federal Way constantly seek solutions to issues of youth violence, particularly if they involve gang activity.

And we wanted to set the record straight — gang violence is not a large problem here.

Gang activity in Federal Way is “transient,” meaning that gangs have not moved in and staked out territory. We have not seen nearly the level of gang violence that some of our neighboring cities have.

Does this mean we should we let down our guard? No. To address a potential increase in gang activity, the Federal Way Police Department in late 2008 dedicated two officers to focus on crime related to gangs.

But the most important step to preventing this kind of crime in our community involves you. By standing together, by remaining vigilant, we can have a considerable impact in reducing the conditions that can lead to a larger gang presence.

We’re happy to report that the school district and the police department have a long history of working together to help our youth find productive ways to resolve conflict. That’s actually what the meeting last week was all about: Joining together to help equip the community with the tools to create healthy environments for our kids.

Studies show that if kids have a high level of self-esteem, if they have involved parents, if they’re active at school and have things to do in their down time, they’re much less likely to become targets for gang activity.

The school district takes a strong stance against gangs. Policies and safety plans are in place for our schools because we believe that every student deserves a learning environment that is safe, challenging and exciting. Simply recognizing gang activity is the first step. Police, school security staff and teachers are trained to spot gang graffiti and signs. And we encourage our teachers to maintain an open dialogue with parents about how their kids are doing in school.

Youth violence is not just a school issue. It is not just a police issue. It is a community issue. There are many resources parents and caregivers can tap into to keep their kids out of trouble: AmeriCorps, Communities in Schools, Boys and Girls Club/EX3, New Heart Youth Outreach/South Sound Dream Center, YouthBuild, Yes!, King County Library System, Urban League Youth Outreach, YMCA - Alive and Free, Valley Cities, Victory Outreach Seattle and others.

The City of Federal Way Human Services Division funds or works with many of these agencies. For more information about community resources, call Lynnette Hynden, human services manager, at (253) 835-2652.

If you’d like to request a crime prevention presentation for your neighborhood or group, call the police department’s Crime Prevention Unit at (253) 835-6720.

Tom Murphy, Federal Way Public Schools Superintendent

Brian Wilson, City Manager/Chief of Police

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