County funding to combat gang violence already seeing results

Saturday, December 3, 2011

According to County Councilmember Bob Ferguson and County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, the infusion of emergency funds into anti-gang activity is already starting to see positive results.

The Metropolitan King County Council’s Law, Justice, Health and Human Services Committee received a status report on November 29, 2011 from County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg on the County’s recently enhanced anti-gang efforts.

“We are starting to see the benefits of our investment in prevention and intervention to combat gang violence in King County,” said Councilmember Bob Ferguson, Chair of the Law, Justice, Health and Human Services Committee. “Addressing the problems of gangs and gang violence is critical to protecting our kids and keeping our communities safe.”

In September, the Council approved a $1.4 million investment from the 2011 Criminal Justice Reserve to address gang violence in King County. The investment included an allocation of $456,000 to expand the Anti-Gang Unit in the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

“The additional resources allowed us to dedicate additional prosecutors to build cases against criminal gang members,” said Dan Satterberg. “Without the investment in these additional resources, it is very likely we would not see resolution to these cases and they would remain unsolved.”

Comprised of four deputy prosecutors and a paralegal, the anti-gang unit is focused solely on prosecuting gang-related crimes. Two Senior Deputy Prosecutors from unit, Karissa Taylor and Maurice Classen, told committee members how the additional funds have had a direct impact on the Kent car show shooting case that left 13 injured.

With the additional funds, the anti-gang unit has been able to:
  • Dedicate a full-time prosecutor to the case;
  • Use 5 to 6 forensic techniques, including cell phone record analysis and a thorough review of nearby surveillance video, to collect evidence; and
  • Create an electronic case file for discovery and ease of analysis.

As a result of these efforts, the Prosecutor has filed charges against eight defendants in the case to date.

The committee also heard how the additional funds have helped the unit handle more cases, file criminal charges more rapidly, and increased the capacity to do more thorough investigation to build better cases against suspected criminal gang members. 
“Without the additional funds, many of gang-related cases we have closed in the last several months, would still be open,” said Satterberg.
The committee also heard from former Washington State Supreme Court Justice Bobbe Bridge about the Suburban King County Coordinating Council on Gangs which was formed earlier this year to develop a comprehensive plan for dealing with gang violence.
 “To address gang violence, it is not enough to focus on suppression,” said Justice Bridge. “We must also invest in prevention, intervention, and re-entry programs for former gang members. We need to send the message that we are never going to give up on these kids.”

The $1.4 million gang violence initiative also funded prevention, including:
  • The Nurse Family Partnership Program, which improves health outcomes for high-risk mothers and results in lower rates of involvement in the criminal justice system;
  • The Back to School and Employment Training Program, which provides education and employment training for youthful offenders; and
  • The Avanza Project, which engages youth at risk of dropping out of school or falling into the juvenile justice system.

Shoreline police say that the City of Shoreline sees little gang-related activity, but Lake Forest Park has different issues. 

According to a LFP detective, there are few actual gang members living in the City, "because it's too expensive to live here." However, he said there are a lot of gang members living in North Seattle, just south of Lake Forest Park and it is easy for them access LFP.

Leaders feel that the kind of programs funded by King County will benefit the entire region.


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