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State House Bills Target Gang Assets

January 14, 2010

State House Bills Target Gang Assets

It was the summer of 2007 when violent gang activity burst out in the downtown Centralia core.

Among the gang violence was one gang member shooting another in the back; another sprayed gunfire in a drive-by-shooting in front of a downtown tavern.

The gangsters were caught and convicted, one getting 30 years, the other a 90-year sentence via a commendable job by our local police force and the county prosecutor’s office.

The Centralia City Council also took action by passing an anti-gang ordinance.

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Gang violence has dropped since then, but we still see the occasional outburst, and gang graffiti continues to be a problem.

Gang activity is a concern throughout the state, hitting the communities in the Yakima Valley in Eastern Washington especially hard.

With the state Legislature back in session this week, two bills attempting to quell gang violence and crime have been proposed.

Rep. Norm Johnson, R-Yakima, has sponsored House Bill 2413, which would allow law enforcement to seize houses, cars, and other assets used by criminals to support gang activity. The property would be sold and the proceeds go toward further law enforcement efforts against gangs. HB 2413 is similar to the drug seizure law already in effect.

Rep. Charles Ross, R-Naches, has sponsored House Bill 2414, which classifies gang activity as a nuisance and allows any public agency or neighbors living within one block of the gang activity to file legal action to stop the criminal activities.

We expect more bills aimed at curbing gang violence to emerge in the coming weeks out of the state Legislature.

A public hearing on HB2413 and HB2414 is scheduled at 10 a.m. this Thursday in House Hearing Room A in the John L. O’Brien Building in Olympia.

We believe both of the proposed bills are appropriate.

Taking away the property of gang members when directly tied to such activity will put a real dent in the future success of gang members. It will also help fund additional police efforts to lower such gang activity.

By classifying gang activity as a nuisance, it gives the citizens a tool to help clean up their own neighborhoods. It allows for the state to take ownership of a building identified as supporting street gang crimes, and sell it if gang activity can be verified. It also allows the owners of the building, if they immediately stop gang activity and keep it out for a year, to continue to own the building.

We don’t take lightly the seizure of people’s property.

The nature of gang crime, however, calls for strident action. Gangs are violent and they have a history of terrorizing those around them.

We endorse such actions as proposed in the two House bills.

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