MLT lawmaker’s bill aims at gang violence

  • Tue Jan 31st, 2012 8:06pm

By Katie Murdoch Herald writer

MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — State Rep. Luis Moscoso, D-Mountlake Terrace, is spearheading House Bill 2432 aimed at promoting local intervention and prevention programs to cut down gang violence.

The bill was approved 7-1 during a hearing in the House Committee on Early Learning and Human Services earlier this month. The measure will go to an appropriations committee but one couldn’t be specified.

Moscoso spent the 2011 interim meeting with families, law enforcement officials and legislators to discuss criminal street gangs and steps to prevent youths from becoming enticed by them.

“You have to get to kids while they’re still in grade school,” Moscoso said.

The bill would jump-start a Criminal Street Gang Prevention and Intervention Grant Program Account. Under the bill, grants would be awarded by the Washington State Partnership Council on Juvenile Justice and require local agencies to match some of the costs. The state would chip in $5 million from the general fund for the fund’s first year.

Prevention will save the state money rather than spending to fund jail, prison and extra police work, Moscoso said.

“We can’t afford to keep addressing the symptoms,” he said.

Legislators have toiled on gang prevention but funding cuts have prevented progress, he said. At the same time, the problem of gangs in Washington hasn’t stopped growing.

“I wanted to throw myself into it,” he said.

Moscoso said last week it’s appropriate this effort fell into his lap. During the 1990s the longtime Mountlake Terrace resident volunteered for the Neutral Zone, a volunteer program initiated by former Police Chief John Turner. Moscoso was inspired to help as his sons experienced gang problems in Mountlake Terrace and parts of Snohomish County.

Moscoso said the gang problem has decreased in Mountlake Terrace since the ’90s. And in some areas, there is not a problem.

“We’ve dealt with this problem before and are on the lookout for it,” he said.