Gang concerns draw a crowd

MARYSVILLE — Yes, there are gangs in Marysville.

This was one of the answers that emerged Thursday night at a forum organized to educate people about the gang subculture.

Marysville city and law enforcement officials invited a national expert to talk about trends, solutions and warning signs associated with the gang mentality.

At least 150 people, some of them taking notes, gathered at the Grove Elementary School despite the heavy rain.

The expert, Christopher Grant, is a retired detective from South Dakota with more than 20 years of experience combating gangs. He’s provided training to hundreds of law enforcement agencies and educational organizations across the country, including Tulalip Tribal Police.

Gang activity in Marysville has been mostly limited to tagging and intimidation among young people. But if these behaviors get out of hand, they can potentially escalate to more violent crimes, Grant said.

Snohomish County has seen a spike in gang violence.

Detectives have confirmed that the Oct. 14 killing of 17-year-old Britney Galindez in Mountlake Terrace was gang-related. The Seattle girl had links to a violent gang that is active in Snohomish County. Her body was discovered Oct. 21 in Lake Ballinger. Prosecutors allege she was stabbed to death, possibly in a fit of rage, by a man who was upset that she got sick in his car.

A countywide survey last year identified 250 gang members and 200 associates from as many as 20 different gangs. Police found that the majority of them are in their teens.

Joe Puott of Marysville came to the forum hoping to gain knowledge that would help his special mission.

Puott, 75, is a traveling preacher who believes he can change young lives.

“If I could find out what these kids are doing and why, maybe I could help them,” he said.

It will take the entire community to deal with the problem of gangs, and Puott said he isn’t afraid to step up.

“I walked the streets of the Bronx (New York). I’ve seen these people who have changed, so I know it works,” he said.

It’s important that community leaders understand the way gang members think and the violence they embrace, Grant said.

Graffiti and tagging have become a growing concern for the area, Marysville Police Lt. Jeff Goldman said.

If you don’t remove graffiti right away, it usually tends to multiply, Goldman said. He encouraged people to report graffiti by calling 911 or submitting a form on the city’s Web site at ci.marysville.wa.us/graffiti.aspx.

Goldman supervises a unit created about a month ago to deal specifically with drug and gang activity.

“If you see something in your neighborhood that looks suspicious, don’t be afraid to call 911. It’s everybody’s issue,” he said.

Reporter Katya Yefimova: 425-339-3452 or kyefimova@heraldnet.com.

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