Yakima's Gang Free Initiative makes progress

Yakima's Gang Free Initiative makes progress

YAKIMA, Wash.-- Yakima's Gang Free Initiative is making strides. The most recent numbers are in on the program's success. They show the GFI is diving into the community and working individually with at-risk youth.

Gang violence is a consistent problem in the Yakima Valley. Pat Crone says he's seen it all.

"I used to live off of Ninth Street many years ago and that's one of the reasons I moved," Crone said. 

Community groups, law enforcement and court departments have all made efforts to fight gangs. Less than a year into the creation of Yakima's Gang Free Initiative, at-risk youth are getting individual attention and the numbers show progress.

"That's good news. I think that's something the community and everyone in general is looking for: to have a task force if you will to start it at the lower level," Crone said. 

The first year of the program was focused on planning advertisements, setting up programs with partners, and implementing a relationship with the schools. Now that that is finished, the numbers show 19 individual treatment plans have been finished recently. The first behavioral interventions were also completed.

But the Gang-Free Initiative also hit a few snags. Two sources of money were recently declined. They included an AmeriCorps Grant and violence prevention funding.

"It's very important they get the money because it's a need," Crone said. "If we don't tackle them, they're going to tackle us."

Other departments are tackling the issue as well. YPD's gang unit recently added two officers and the gang unit in the Yakima County Prosecutor's office just got another prosecutor for the caseload.

GFI leaders tell KIMA the goal for the last quarter of the year is to form a permanent staff. Once a project manager is chosen, evaluations and research will resume.