Last week the Yakima County Gang Commission met in Wapato and approved applying for the Comprehensive Anit-Gang Strategies and Programs grant through the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
The $750,000 grant would provide for three coordinators to establish an anti-gang strategy and infrastructure throughout the valley.
The grant application is the result of a coordinated effort between the Yakima County Gang Free Initiative, the City of Yakima and Sunnyside's Promise.
The three partners entered into the grant process together because of two simple facts, reported Harold Delia of the Yakima County Court system, also a member of the gang commission.
The first is that the three entities by themselves stood very little chance of being awarded the funding. The second reason is that gang members often move from one town to another in the county.
"Most of these gang members go from one community to another," Delia said. "It is important that we coordinate our services together and not in isolation."
The grant will give each partner $250,000 to hire a coordinator. The city of Yakima coordinator will work with the communities of Union Gap and Selah while Sunnyside's Promises coordinator will work in the Lower Valley. A county coordinator would cover the Yakama Nation, other Mid-Valley communities and cities not covered by the other two coordinators, like White Swan.
"We'll cover the whole county between the three of them," said Delia.
The coordinators will work together, Delia emphasized. "It's a partnership. No one is taking the lead."
Together, the coordinators will report to the gang commission, the city of Yakima, Sunnyside's Promise and the city of Sunnyside.
Sunnyside's Promise originally started the work on the grant before Delia approached them with a plan for the partnership.
"The reality for us is that Sunnyside's Promise has done a very good job and been very aggressive at going after funding," Delia said.
Sunnyside's Promise has developed a reputation for their work across the state, he revealed. They also happen to be the only agency with a representative on the gang commission that is not from law enforcement or an elected official.
The organization gives Sunnyside two voices on the commission as Mayor Jim Restucci is also on the board.