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Originally published Sunday, September 30, 2012 at 6:08 PM

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Yakima anti-gang program to start soon

Some 100 to 120 at-risk youths should be enrolled and receiving some sort of service within a year from the center's opening. They may need help staying in school, getting a job or finding a counselor. Outreach staff will work with families, or police may seek to defer prosecution for certain crimes if the offender is willing to enroll in the program.

Yakima Herald-Republic

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YAKIMA — The city's anti-gang effort will begin seeking out its first at-risk youths for counseling and other services later this year in hopes of steering them away from the streets.

The opening of a city-managed youth and family development center should happen about the end of November, said Steve Magallan, the city's consultant for the Gang Free Initiative (GFI) program.

Yakima still needs to settle on a location for the site and confirm contracts with several providers that have requested a share of $140,000 in city funding dedicated to the program. Larger agencies may join the effort using their own existing funding, Magallan said.

Magallan said 100 to 120 at-risk youths should be enrolled and receiving some sort of service within a year from the center's opening. They may need help staying in school, getting a job or finding a counselor. Outreach staff will work with families, or police may seek to defer prosecution for certain crimes if the offender is willing to enroll in the program.

The City Council this year set aside funding from a utility-tax increase to support the Yakima Police Department and the anti-gang effort. That $140,000 will be added to $27,000 in state funding, plus matching money from the service agencies, to reach an estimated $500,000 to run the development center.

The goal of the GFI program is to reduce the number of gang members and the amount of crime they commit. Those involved say they hope to start seeing results in the first several years, but long-term reductions likely won't be noticed for 15 to 20 years.

The Bloomberg Challenge, a philanthropic effort that funds creative programs by local governments, announced last week that Yakima was being considered for a one-time grant worth up to $5 million for the anti-gang effort. The grant process is very competitive.

"We're hopeful. If they toss a nod in our direction, I'll be happy," Magallan said.

The total GFI project — consisting of three development centers across the city — is calculated to cost $7.2 million over three years.

About one-quarter of that funding has been secured from various sources, and more funding will be sought regardless of the outcome of the Bloomberg grant.

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