Gang presence growing, detectives say
Law enforcers are looking to step up their presence within the community to keep innocent bystanders safe as gang violence is becoming more visible.
It’ll take a larger effort.
The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office and Snohomish Regional Drug & Gang Task Force are tracking an increasing number of gang-related incidents countywide.
Last week, the two agencies, with an assigned FBI agent on hand, gave a presentation to the Snohomish County
Council’s law and justice committee about gang activities in south Snohomish County since 2015.
The numbers said it all.
Since 2015, there have been 56 gang-related shootings, 14 victims with gunshot wounds, two homicides and five gang-related events from which guns and drugs were recovered. Most of the gang activity involved juveniles.
“About 75 percent of the 56 gang shootings were over the last year… things are ramping up. And with summertime coming, it’s going to get worse than that,” said Sheriff’s Office detective Brad Walvatne. Walvatne and his partner Detective Kendra Conley
have been working some gang-related crime cases, referring to the suspects and subjects in the crimes as “kids.”
The detectives have been working the two gang-related homicide cases, which ultimately led to the suspects being arrested and convicted.
Sheriff Ty Trenary said there isn’t a full-time gang detective on his team, and with the escalating gang issues in the county, there may be a need for one.
“They’ve done a good job, but in reality, we continue to lose ground,” Trenary said of his team and the other agencies his team and the other agencies that have been working in conjunction with them.
The gangs that are inciting the violence were listed in the presentation last week: Desmadrosos, Sureños, Sur Town Rascals, Los Angeles Crazies, Black Gangster Disciples, Florencia, Diamond Boys, MS-13, Crips, Bloods, Wetback Pride and
Southside. All are affiliated with larger networks of gangs that span coast to coast, as well as in prisons and jails.
The vast majority of gang activity occurs in south Everett; several of which were drive-by shootings, near schools and parks.
“As you know, South County is heavily populated,” Walvatne told the council. “Casino Road is off the hook as well. This isn’t any specific area where they all stay in one spot … they move all around … many are linked to other gang activity in King County.”
Primarily, though, the police are dealing with Hispanic gangs. These gangs are fighting over territory, retaliation and “beefs,” and many of the gang members police have contacted are juveniles.
Fourteen-year-olds. Seventeen-year-olds. And none of these young men, who are identified as gang members, will cooperate with police.
“With these kids that have been arrested and found guilty … they’ve been in custody for over a year, but this gang violence hasn’t slowed down. It’s getting worse. So, these guys get taken off the street, new young kids, 14-year-old kids, get moved in and want to prove themselves, and that’s why we’re seeing these young kids doing these things.”
The county law and justice committee said the dialogue with the detectives and what they’re seeing regularly
helped. The committee may look into gathering more resources for either a temporary special unit or an emphasis patrol for gangs and gang-related crimes.
“I know we’re challenged for funding, but I think this is a problem that if we don’t address now, and don’t give you the tools you need, it’s going to get worse,” said committee member and County Councilwoman Stephanie Wright.
One committee member noted he thought he had seen an uptick in juvenile violence at a local park in Lake Stevens. Detective Jeff Nevin told the committee that gang
members have been “kicked out of” the Casino Road area housing, and moved up to Lake Stevens; many gangs will recruit kids as young as sixth graders — and do so at local parks.
The law and justice committee collectively told Trenary they will be looking into what they can do.
In Snohomish, Police Chief John Flood said his team hasn’t seen any recent gang activity. He said Snohomish doesn’t have the city layout, such as acres and acres of apartment complexes, that statistically speaking attracts gang activity.
“We’re watching for it, but we have not seen anything
gang-related happening in Snohomish,” Flood said. “There could certainly be gang members that pass through the community, but we aren’t seeing major gang activity.”
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