Fast Focus: 'Are you concerned about gangs in the Tri-Cities? Work with schools and families

March 2, 2014 

Having lived in the Tri-Cities the majority of my life and having nine years experience as a Reserve Police Officer (WRPD 1992-2000) and almost five years as a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL), my perspective is that the gang problem is a real issue that touches thousands of lives and that we all should be aware of and understand the depth and magnitude of the problem. The reality is, however, that as the general public. we don't (out of sight -- out of mind).

The collective police/sheriff/ state patrol/wildlife officers/ federal agencies and superior and juvenile court systems as well as the social services have done a good job of aggressively identifying the issue and putting in place plans and programs to keep children out of gangs and apprehending gang members and prosecuting them through the legal system. But it's not enough.

The issue that looms in front of us is that there are so many priorities for these agencies to deal with that there never seems to be enough time and resources (money and people) to address the gang problem in such a manner that creates a possibility of someday eliminating it, or at least making it a minor issue.

Solutions exist beginning with good solid education of the young children and providing after-school activities. Meeting with and working with the parents of those with children particularly at risk and providing guidance and support to those parents to obtain meaningful jobs including addressing the language barrier where it exists and where it keeps good people from being fully participating citizens.

Full exposure of the gang problem to all citizens on an ongoing basis (maybe a monthly update by a spokesperson via news media with measurable goals) also needs to take place and the citizens then need to participate en masse to support the police agencies and social services that will allow them to take on the problem with the needed adequate resources and community support.

Without these types of actions, the good people who protect us and manage the court system will do the very best they can without any possibility of ever resolving this issue. Money will be spent, some people will die, and hundreds of lives will be disrupted in a bad way with no pathway to a good life.

-- LENNY PERKINS, Richland

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