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Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Gang violence in Seattle on the rise, report says City study urges more spending on prevention

A report on gangs in Seattle bolsters what some in law enforcement and community groups already were saying -- gang violence is up, and more prevention programs are needed."It validated what I'd been hearing and experiencing the last few months," said Terry Hayes, a supervisor with the city's Human Services Department who works with youth programs.The 87-page report, completed in four weeks, cost $15,000. Work on it began Feb. 1, less than a month after two young Seattle men were slain in what were believed to have been gang-related shootings. Allen Joplin, 17, was shot dead Jan. 3 and, in a separate shooting, De'Che Morrison, 14, was killed Jan. 11. Neither case has been solved.

"The problem, youth are saying, is increasing," Hayes said.

The report was done for Human Services at the behest of the City Council, part of an assessment required when the council added $500,000 to the agency's budget for gang prevention.

That money is held until the council officially releases it, said Councilman Tim Burgess, chairman of the Public Safety Committee. He expects the report to be discussed and a decision made at the committee's meeting on Tuesday.

Burgess found the report enlightening, if somewhat bleak.

"What catches my eye is the confirmation of what we've seen from our police reports," he said. "We're seeing a significant upsurge in gang activity that is happening among youth who are younger and younger."

Among the report's findings:

  • Youths, police officers and those who work with at-risk youth, all agree that despite record low crime rates, gang violence in Seattle has increased over the past two to three years.
  • Estimates of the number of gangs in Seattle vary wildly, from a low of 30 to a high of 200.
  • Nearly 80 percent of youths surveyed reported having a friend in a gang, while more than 50 percent said they had a relative who was a gang member.
  • Guns are too easy for teens to obtain.

    The report recommends more gang prevention programs and more money for them. It also suggests that such programs intervene earlier in the lives of kids, and that former and current gang members be allowed to participate in prevention efforts when willing.

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    I think society grossly underestimates the problem of gang culture, if we don’t do more and spend more on solving it, it could plunge modern day urban culture into a vicious cycle it will never recover from.

    Posted by: David Walters | Jan 6, 2009 5:04:17 AM

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