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15th District lawmakers laud passage of anti-gang legislation

OLYMPIA - Reps. Dan Newhouse and Bruce Chandler last Friday praised the passage of legislation to crack down on criminal gang activity.

The 15th District lawmakers said the bipartisan measure, which was adopted by the House on a 46-3 vote, will provide communities tools to combat the scourge of gang violence.

"Families are living in fear of criminal gangs and gang-related crimes. Many feel like they're being held hostage in their own neighborhood," said Newhouse (R-Sunnyside). "Protecting families and empowering local communities to address gang related crimes is a priority for me this session. Passing this bill is a big win."

Chandler (R-Granger) added that House Bill 2712 was a crucial piece of legislation for lawmakers to pass this year. "The citizens of this state put their trust in us to not only protect them, but listen to them. I believe this bill has done that," Chandler said.

House Bill 2712 would provide a statewide gang definition and create a statewide gang database, both of which have been identified as needed tools for law enforcement officials. The bill would also increase the penalties for gang members who recruit juveniles for their crimes. Funds are provided in the House budget to assist local jurisdictions with graffiti removal and to add law enforcement resources in fighting criminal gang activity.

The bill was amended by the Senate to remove the authority for local jurisdictions to use civil anti-gang injunctions. The anti-gang injunctions would have allowed local jurisdictions a legal way to prevent established gang members from associating with each other within designated safe zones.

Both Newhouse and Chandler said they are committed to continue working on the issue of criminal gangs.

The bill now heads back to the House for final approval of the Senate amendment.

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