Attorney General Pitches New Gang Legislation

Attorney General Pitches New Gang Legislation
YAKIMA -- If not now, then when? That's the question Washington's attorney general will ask state legislators when he pitches gang legislation again this session. Rob McKenna is hoping the spread of gang violence across the state will finally convince law makers to act. And he was in Yakima to kick off the campaign.

Rob McKenna has been down this road before. He has pitched anti-gang legislation for years, with limited success.

Our cameras were the only ones rolling during a morning meeting that included the leaders of every law enforcement agency in the county, and some. It's these work shops McKenna is hoping will rally the entire state to finally gang up on the problem.

The AG's draft legislation is a three pronged counter offensive; first it asked for $10 million for gang prevention and intervention. It calls for giving police the ability to go after gangbangers with civil protections, like shutting down gang houses. And it increases criminal penalties for all gang-related crimes, even making tagging a felony.

Immediately following the Attorney General's meeting with law enforcement here in Yakima County, we pulled him aside to ask him what he felt was the different this year from previous years when it comes to passing gang-related legislation. KIMA asked, "What's different this year than it was last year when you really couldn't get a lot of traction on this issue?" McKenna replied, "We're reaching out all over the state now to build a true statewide coalition whereas before we had a more of a Yakima focus alone." KIMA pressed, "This legislation asks for a lot of money in a very difficult budget time. How do you plan to get that through?" McKenna answered, "We wanted to be sure to stress how important all of us in the community, in social services, in law enforcement understand that prevention and intervention is a key part of the strategy." KIMA also asked, "What are you most optimistic about when it comes to what elements will actually make it through?" McKenna replied, "I think the bill has to have a prevention and intervention component in it. We have to win the hearts and minds of the kids who are being recruited into gangs. I think most legislators agree with that. Certainly all of us in law enforcement think that's essential. Number two, I think some of the civil provisions that were included like the ability to obtain a civil protection order to keep gang members out of a neighborhood has an excellent chance of passing."

At an afternoon press conference in one of Yakima's most gang-ridden neighborhoods, McKenna reiterated, gang legislation in this state will continue to be about chipping away at old standards of law-making, to finally come up with a new kind of solution.