EVERETT — By this fall, as many as 10 families at Explorer Middle School could be taking part in an intensive program meant to improve their relationships and to steer their kids away from gangs.
The Everett Police Department’s new effort to prevent gang and youth violence is in the early phases. The department has begun providing free gun locks. It’s also taken steps toward creating a gang response unit, which could be running by August. The changes follow a mayoral directive by Cassie Franklin, issued shortly after she took office in January.
Everett’s gang violence spiked in 2017 and continues to make headlines.
The details are “absolutely concerning,” Police Chief Dan Templeman said.
“We will pursue those investigations aggressively,” he said. “The message has to be: This kind of behavior will not be tolerated in our community.”
Everett police spent the past few months listening to people who work with teenagers in town, including staff from schools and nonprofits. They’ve also consulted with the anti-gang teams from King and Pierce counties. One of the “loud and clear” messages has been to build on existing programs, instead of starting from scratch, Templeman said.
The mayor’s directive contains goals, the first of which is prevention and intervention. On that front, police have settled on two programs, which will be pilots. One is called Pathways for Adolescent Youth, which includes a “Strengthening Families” course led by Washington State University. It addresses healthy relationships for parents and children.
The other is called PIVOT, for Positive Intervention Outreach Team.
Pathways is planned for Explorer, with a focus on families with children “at higher risk for gang involvement,” Templeman said. Factors could include siblings with gang history.
The goal is to address root causes, instead of chasing gunfire, the chief said.
Pathways includes the Casino Road-based nonprofit Hand In Hand, Cocoon House, the YMCA, the Boys & Girls Club and the Mukilteo School District, which serves parts of south Everett. If it works here, as it has in other places, Templeman could see it being used in other middle schools and even elementaries, he said. The age range most affected by local gangs is 12 to 20.
Gangs reward vandalism and violence. Templeman hopes to find ways to recognize positive behaviors, such as showing up to school, improving grades and volunteering. He’s thinking about restaurant gift cards, meals with mentors and job training opportunities.
The department is looking to fund prevention and intervention through grants, foundations and other supporters, he said.
“We’ve heard from the community at many different venues. The question has been asked, ‘How can I help? How can I be involved?’ One way certainly is donating through these programs.”
One example is the “flex fund” that uses donations for youth outreach. Police have a similar account for street-level social issues.
Meanwhile, PIVOT would help schools and other organizations with referrals for teens and families who are facing challenges with gangs or violence. Its members, drawn from multiple professions, would review cases confidentially and help connect people with resources, Templeman said.
Reporter Joseph Thompson contributed to this story.
Free gun locks
The Everett Police Department last week began offering free gun locks at its downtown office and the precinct on Everett Mall Way. The campaign is called Lock It Everett. More info: www.everettwa.gov/lockit. The site contains information about involvement opportunities in the anti-gang initiative.