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AG's office given special hearing to address gang bill

OLYMPIA - Lawmakers will be in Olympia this coming weekend for a specially called legislative session to deal with the state's growing budget deficit. Attorney General Rob McKenna is using the emergency gathering to pitch a bill he's proposing that is designed to reduce gang violence.

McKenna's office was granted the opportunity to pitch the bill today (Friday) during an 8 a.m. work session of the Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Committee, chaired by Rep. Christopher Hurst (D-Enumclaw), a 25-year police detective veteran. McKenna's bill aims to help kids avoid or drop out of gangs, and would provide new civil and criminal tools for reducing overall violence.

"Gang violence is on the rise in Washington, impacting young people from Yakima to Seattle and Spokane to Tacoma," said McKenna.

McKenna said he appreciates that Hurst understands how important it is to address this problem before more young people are harmed. "We're grateful that he's provided this opportunity to further address gang violence."

Attorney General's Office Policy Director Chris Johnson was scheduled to speak to Hurst's committee about the new gang bill and receive feedback about the committee's preferences for what provisions have the best chance of passing during a busy legislative season.

"In some cities, gang members are responsible for the majority of violent crime," Johnson said. "When a 10-year-old Seattle gang member receives a gunshot wound, when there are shootings in broad daylight in busy downtown areas, it's clear we have a problem."

McKenna announced his proposals last month. His suggested legislation offers a mix of prevention, intervention and prosecution measures to reduce gang violence.

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