Tacoma embarks on gang assessment project

City officials are preparing to embark on an ambitious project to assess the state of gang activity throughout Tacoma. When completed, data collected will identify prevalent and serious gang-related problems, factors contributing to the existence of these gangs, current efforts to curb gang activity, and ways to partner with agencies to create a long-term strategy for addressing gangs in the long-term. Completing the assessment would also open the door for grant opportunities down the road.

On Oct. 19, Tacoma City Council approved a resolution authorizing $50,000 from council’s contingency fund toward hiring a consultant to conduct the study. Tacoma’s human rights and human services department will now work with Tacoma police to develop a Request for Proposals (RFP) and to manage the study.

The idea has worked its way through City Hall since March, when councilmembers set a goal to reduce gangs and gang-related crime during its annual retreat. Councilmembers wanted to work with schools, service agencies and other partners to develop a comprehensive approach targeting prevention, intervention and suppression, according to Tacoma’s Assistance Police Chief, Bob Sheehan, who spoke in support of the resolution during Tuesday’s city council meeting. Over the past six months, council’s public safety, human services, and education committee has discussed the idea. At its Oct. 14 meeting, the committee decided to present a resolution authorizing the funds and starting the RFP process to the full city council.

“I am really excited about this opportunity,” said Councilmember Victoria Woodards befiore voting unanimously with her colleagues in support of the resolution. “So often, it’s great to make a priority, but sometimes to make it a priority, you have to move and do something. And this is our opportunity to actually do something. I’m excited about potential partnerships we have in the community, people who have been working on this issue for a long time. But I think it’s really important as a city, people expecting us to step up and take the lead when there are problems in the city. It’s not the city alone that can solve the problem. But we have to take a lead role, because it affects the things we do every day in the city. So I’m happy to see this pass tonight.”

Mayor Marilyn Strickland commended the police department “for really embracing our initiative to take a preventive approach to dealing with gangs.”