Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

An interesting editorial has been published by the Yakima Herald. It talks about a frightening gang-related weapons seizure:

Cop carHere's just a glimpse of what was taken during the drug-related arrest: a MAC-11 machine-gun pistol, several AK-47s, homemade silencers, shortened AR-15 rifles and shotguns. The total: 33 guns. Don't forget the three pipe bombs and a bag full of rolled-up $100 bills totaling thousands of dollars.

The editorial goes on to talk about the prevalence of gangs in the area:

In the city of Yakima, officials believe there are at least 500 gang members. Countywide, the numbers rise to 2,000. Nationwide, a district attorney's association claims there are 30,000 gangs with 800,000 members.

It also touches on AG McKenna's recent trip to Yakima, where he spoke about the idea of civil injunctions targeted against known gang members:

An injunction is a court order that seeks to stop individuals or organizations from preventing the general public from enjoying life and property. Popularized in California, an anti-gang civil injunction goes one step further and is directed at criminal street gangs. These gangs can be targeted because they are an identifiable group due to their colors and other signs. The injunction enables police to detain gang members and stop them from associating in a defined area like a neighborhood.

Let's say a homeowner feels threatened by the presence of a nearby gang whose members gather at a street corner near the home. An injunction could be used to clear them out so the homeowner could once again enjoy sitting on his or her porch or front stoop.

It's an intriguing tool to fight potential gang violence. Of course, these injunctions must be directed at gang members whose activities are ongoing and are occurring within a defined location. Members of the gang must also be served first with the injunction before it can be enforced. That may prove to be a tough proposition.

But McKenna vows to push ahead with civil injunctions and prepare a measure for state lawmakers to consider when they reconvene in January. Here, the county prosecutor has already been looking into these California-style injunctions.

While a civil injunction may not have the firepower of those weapons seized several weeks ago, it can provide a different kind of ammunition -- the ability to detain known gang members and get them off the streets.

It's not a cure-all, but it's certainly another means of dampening gang activity and the violence that it spawns. If it leads to reclaiming just one neighborhood, it's worth the effort.

Read the full editorial on the Yakima Herald's web site.