Where King County Doesn’t Take Responsibility for Diddly Squat Where Increase of Gang Violence is Concerned
Last week a somber looking King County Executive Dow Constantine announced the county would make available $1.4 million dollars to anti-gang efforts after a shooting in Kent injured 13 people.
During the 2011 budget process, County Council set these monies aside in anticipation they would be needed to address some kind of crisis in the future. The Kent shooting is that crisis, blamed for sparking a gang war that is ongoing. The County will decide in 2013 whether to continue funding.
Therein lies the problem.
There should be no question that ongoing comprehensive funding is needed to reduce gang violence across all of King County, not just the current hot spots.
The ugly truth is, gang members tend to be an out-of-sight-out-of-mind population. The rest of us- including our elected- tend not to pay them any attention until a crime is committed. Until someone is murdered.
Gang life is a constant reality for an estimated 10,000 gang members in King County alone. The culture runs much deeper than the incidents of violence we see on the news.
Constantine and Council members certainly had their ducks in a row when they went before the press, each of their statements addressing critical talking points to shore up support for this latest effort.
The most common theme: Us vs them.
Electeds pledged to do whatever it takes to stop gang members from inflicting violence on King County communities.
The uncomfortable truth: gang members are a part of these communities. They are your neighbors and mine. We’re not talking about a roaming band of wolves, traveling from town to town inflicting havoc on anyone they encounter. We’re talking about the kid who lives two doors down.
Kids and young adults in gangs aren’t going anywhere. We can’t rid ourselves of them by tossing a bit of change at the problem. Employing more people to encourage gang members to make better choices and change their lives is not the winning ticket. King county is not doing enough to counteract the circumstances under which gangs are born and thrive, namely poverty and a lack of resources to meet basic needs.
What Constantine didn’t say in his presser, is that County leaders are partially responsible for the rise in gang violence, having slashed and burned human services funding- a reality the Executive knows too well having served on the county council before moving to the corner office. He participated in making funding cuts. He failed then, and has failed as County Executive, to work with Council members to create a dedicated funding source for human services.
South King County has seen an increase in violence and overall tensions. But let’s not kid ourselves; all gangs are tied to each other in some way. When an incident happens involving one gang, it sends a ripple most of us never see until bullets start flying.
Even if there is a greater push towards gang suppression, resulting in increased prosecution and incarceration- when they get out of jail guess where they’re going? Back to the communities and neighborhoods from which they came.
Two doors down from you.