Recognizing an increase in gang activity in some communities, members of the Metropolitan King County Council today proposed creation of a gang suppression unit in the King County Sheriff's Office.
JoAn Cox, mother of slain King County sheriff's deputy Steve Cox, led a community petition drive supporting establishment of a gang unit. Cox was shot and killed last December while questioning a suspect with reported gang ties.
According to a July briefing to the Council by Sheriff Sue Rahr, gang-related incidents have risen sharply in the past two years. In 2005, the Sheriff's Office responded to 199 incidents, as compared with 528 in 2006 and 210 in the first quarter of 2007. The Sheriff said she has responded to gang activity by adding emphasis patrols and increasing efforts to monitor high-risk convicted felons.
"Sheriff Rahr has taken major steps to curb this outbreak of criminal activity, but the result has been to shift resources from other important functions of the sheriff's office," said Councilmember Dow Constantine, prime sponsor of the motion. "We need an organized, securely funded law enforcement response to gang-related crime in our communities. At the same time, we must remember that supporting positive programs for young people and intervening to steer at-risk kids away from gangs are equally important parts of the battle against gang activity.
"The sheriff's office has documented and reported to us that gang-related crime and gang activity are growing public safety problems that cross jurisdictional boundaries," said Councilor Kathy Lambert, chair of the Law, Justice and Human Services Committee and co-sponsor of the legislation. "King County needs to dedicate the resources that will make it very clear to gangs that King County is not a gang-friendly place for them to operate. Enforcement is just one piece, but an important one, in our broader efforts to put a high value on education and succeeding in school while also supporting families and keeping young people from getting involved in gangs."
"Gang violence and crime are thwarting efforts to build communities that thrive economically and that are safe and desirable places for families and their children," said Councilor Julia Patterson, another co-sponsor of the motion. "Establishing a gang unit will help identify gang members, see that they are punished for the violence and crime they commit, and restore trust and security in communities afflicted by gang activity."
The Council today referred the legislation to the Law, Justice and Human Services Committee for further action.