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$9,000 gang prevention stop-gap OK’d by council

Yakima County will provide the city of Sunnyside with $9,000 for gang prevention and intervention services.

The funds will ensure counseling services provided by FERME and MERIT Resources will continue through the end of March, according to City Manager Don Day.

“This is a stop-gap from the county,” he told the Sunnyside City Council last night.

He said the county has also asked the city to take another look at providing funding to Sunnyside United.

Day said the county provided the funding for counseling services to allow the city time to consider its next steps.

He told the council members that FERME and MERIT work with at-risk youth who are believed to have gang ties or the potential to become involved in gangs.

Councilman Jason Raines asked Day if there is any way to measure the results of the services.

Day told the council, “It is very hard to measure these things.”

Councilman Spencer Martin is a member of Sunnyside’s public safety subcommittee and recalled Yakima County Commissioner Kevin Bouchey recently stating there have been fewer juvenile arrests and convictions for gang activity since gang prevention and intervention programs have been implemented over the past few years.

“Sunnyside is being given the money,” Martin said in encouraging the council to formally accept the $9,000 from the county.

Day said the city is being given the money and the council will need to approve contracts with FERME and MERIT.

“I don’t think we have 1,000 kids in gangs. I think we have 1,000 kids affected by gangs,” Day said.

Raines questioned him about the impact of helping two to three children in the community.

Day told him that helping those few can make a difference because of the number of children two or three at-risk youth come in contact with.

The council accepted the funding from the county by a 7-0 vote.

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