Everett mayor orders a coordinated response to gang violence

Her plan involves the justice system, community organizations, schools and residents.

Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin (at podium) explains her plan to reduce gang violence on Friday. (City of Everett)

Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin (at podium) explains her plan to reduce gang violence on Friday. (City of Everett)

EVERETT — An upsurge in gang-related violence — coupled with the shootings, deaths and arrests of young people most often connected with those crimes — has caught the attention of Everett’s new mayor.

Cassie Franklin is expected to issue an order Thursday outlining a comprehensive plan for Everett to address youth and gang violence. She and Everett Police Chief Dan Templeman planned to announce specifics at a mid-morning press conference.

The order directs pooling resources from around the city and seeking more community support and involvement.

Franklin hopes to bring together prosecutors and judges, law enforcement, local organizations, schools and people living in neighborhoods that have been plagued by gun violence.

She also wants to step up efforts to impress upon gun owners the importance of safely securing their weapons.

Much of the violence involving young people in Everett has involved guns stolen earlier in burglaries and car prowls, or simply taken from the suspects’ homes, without the owners’ permission, police say.

Franklin spoke briefly Wednesday evening with the City Council about her plan. She said she looks forward to sharing “more about what we can do in our community” to address gangs and youth violence.

Franklin and Templeman have talked with families whose children feel unsafe walking home from school. Parents don’t know where to go for help. They hope the partnership will lead to a restored sense of safety and access to more resources.

Much of Everett’s gang-related crime is concentrated in the south end of town, but it has touched people around the city, from Casino Road to Rucker Hill.

In the first 10 months of 2017, there were more than 60 shootings, according to police. There also was a 75 percent jump in gang-related offenses last year, including homicides as well as graffiti and tagging.

More than 80 percent of those who were arrested in connection with those crimes were 21 or younger, according to the city.

Drive-by shootings significantly increased, reaching 23 total by October last year. However, Templeman noticed a decline toward the end of the year. There were no drive-by shootings in November, one month after police added extra patrols in the Casino Road neighborhood.

“I’m looking at tomorrow and maintaining those numbers,” Templeman said.

The October death of David Sandoval figures large in Franklin’s urgency.

David, 14, was shot and killed because he was wearing blue shoes. The alleged shooter was 13. That boy had borrowed a handgun from a friend who was 12.

Templeman has since spoken with David’s father. Every life is precious, the police chief said.

“That’s why this is one of the first directives,” Franklin said.

The order outlines six initiatives.

The focus on secure gun storage recognizes how many firearms are winding up in the hands of young people, Templeman said. They’re taken from cars and dresser drawers. More than 110 guns were reported stolen in the first 10 months of 2017, according to the city.

Police and city staff hope to partner with local businesses to provide gunlocks or other storage options for free or at a reduced cost.

Meanwhile, city staff expect to meet with prosecutors, judges and detention officials to discuss potential for new approaches in the juvenile justice system. Franklin said the aim would be to find a balance between rehabilitating young offenders and public safety.

“I don’t think we have hit that balance,” she said.

Templeman believes there needs to be a level of accountability for young people who engage in violent acts.

Groups working on these initiatives are scheduled to report back to Franklin before the end of this year. The mayor said she has set goals and deadlines for each aspect of the undertaking.

A team led by the police department is expected to investigate how other cities have intervened and prevented gang violence.

Police are considering a new gang-response unit. Templeman said there are positions that were originally authorized for a new anti-crime team and were never filled. Those positions could be redirected. That way, officers wouldn’t be pulled away from their current patrol areas.

Police also know they need to set aside their guns and badges to spend time with kids. Every year, the department hosts a soccer camp, a baseball tournament and a junior police academy. With the help of local organizations, they hope to provide other activities for young people.

The mayor’s initiative intends to build on existing resources, meaning agencies won’t spend additional money. However, the city plans to seek grants and other funding to cover the cost of expanded programs.

The city also is asking for ideas. Policymakers hope to meet with people to hear about their concerns as well as gaps in resources.

“We have to spend time listening to these families,” Franklin said. “They’re hungry for support.”

Franklin and Templeman said they share a common goal.

“I don’t want something like the tragedy of David to happen again in our community,” the mayor said.

Reporter Rikki King contributed to this story.

Caitlin Tompkins: 425-339-3192; ctompkins @heraldnet.com.

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