Tacoma Gang Assessment - Study Results Are Just the Beginning

Tacoma Gang Assessment Survey data is now available to the public in its entirety.  Much of the information could be filed under the category of “yeah, we kinda guessed as much,” including the broad headlines of the assessment’s “key findings.”

  1. Gang activity is concentrated in particular neighborhoods.
  2. Involvement with gangs increases access to weapons and drugs, and, therefore, increases weapon- and drug-related crimes.
  3. Middle school is a critical time for at risk youth, when they are making decisions about joining a gang.
  4. Limitations on existing data collection methods led to incomplete demographic information on gang activity.

The background introduction to the Assessment explains that since the high point of Tacoma’s gang-related infamy in the 1980s and 90s, programs that contributed to reductions in gang violence have been victims of their own success.  As gang activity has declined, related programs were cut back.  Now, according to the assessment, “over the past three years, the prevalence of youth involvement in gangs and youth violence is on the rise.”

Some items from the assessment:

  • The assessment identified 4 major gang types in Tacoma: Bloods, Crips, Nortenos and Surenos
  • Top 3 reasons identified for joining a gang: for money, because a friend was in a gang. because a family member was in a gang.
  • 49% of “self-admitted gang members” reported joining a gang before age 15.
  • Gangs with Hispanic connections are on the rise, many moving up from California.
  • Per capita, Tacoma’s middle school students are the most likely to be involved in or experience a violent incident at school – almost twice as likely as high school students.
  • The Age Group 15-17 accounts for the highest number of offenders involved in gang crime – 26% of total gang-related crimes.
  • Although early intervention appears to be key, Tacoma presently lacks a system by which youths involved in low-level gang activities and experiencing behavior problems at school can be directed to intervention services.
  • By affiliation, gangs in Tacoma are predominantly Los Angeles-style gangs, as opposed to Chicago-style or Northern California-style.
  • Of identified gang members, Crips by far outnumber other gangs.

Whether we think we knew most of this already or not, the fact that it has now been gathered in this survey format is still significant as Tacoma looks to move forward in addressing the undeniably real problem of gangs.  A large part of the value of the survey, as suggested in an earlier Exit133 piece on the Tacoma Gang Assessment, and as argued by Councilmember Woodards in a recent letter to the TNT in defense of the study, is the usefulness of the data in applying for grant funding available for gang-prevention and intervention efforts.  Without this data, Tacoma could not qualify for many such grants.  Another interesting point from Councilmember Woodards’ letter seems to bode well for Tacoma’s grant-winning potential.

Since conducting our gang assessment, we have been told that the National Gang Center and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention view Tacoma’s study as the model assessment.

Arguments about the timing and necessity of the assessment aside, the data has been collected; we now know more accurately where we stand as a community dealing with gangs.  But that’s just the beginning.  Where do we go from here?

View the full survey results, along with supporting documents at www.cityoftacoma.org/TacomaGangProject

Read more in previous coverage from Exit133 of the Tacoma Gang Assessment.

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Yo Yo, Fredo here with some street wise advice for you homies:

We need to raise taxes in Tacoma so that we can roll out additional social services for these needy young fools. It would be nice if we could attract other such people by social spending and thus concentrate these populations right here in our town! Once we get enough of these fools together we could establish an “international gang banger enterprise zone.” This would qualify Tacoma for additional state and federal funding and put Tacoma on the international scene much like the sister cities program.

It’s also important to keep funds flowing to young unwed mothers and to make sure they have bitchin’ cribs and cell phones so that they could raise another generation of low achievers without the burden of having to find an actual job.

Kudos to council woman Woodards for making Tacoma a sanctuary city for young gang bangers. sho’nough.

April 17, 2012 at 9:21 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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I suppose that if I had been asked two months ago, what the areas were that had the highest concentration of gang activity, the top four or five on the map would definitely have been on my top-ten list.  It’s a little difficult to tell where these locations are exactly, but the main sites appear to be the Mall, the apartments around the mall, Foss, Stadium and Mt Tahoma High Schools.  It also appears as though Licoln HS is area of medium gang activity.

It’s easy to say, “Well, duh!  Isn’t this obvious?”  But anecdotal evidence and guess-work don’t provide sufficient basis for a study to get to the bottom of this issue, and give possible solutions.  This study is an extremely in-depth analysis of suveys of the groups involved, police statistics, demographics, and other misc. factors (including home and health issues).

As our esteemed moderator asks, “Where do we go from here?”  Do we use this study to figure out what to do, or do we just use it to confirm our suspicions, then continue to complain about the problem and the fact nothing seems to be getting done?

April 17, 2012 at 10:08 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Jenny Jenkins

@1 – I hardly think that “gang-prevention and intervention efforts” are a rolling out of the red carpet for gangs.  Your comment, while humorous, seems to me based on flawed logic.

@2 – I was wondering about that hot spot too – I hadn’t thought of the mall.  I’m guessing that the mall and schools are the most likely to make the gang connection to crimes.  I’m wondering (and I think I read something in scanning the report) if the hot spots are due to more consistent reporting of gang connections from people like security guards and school officers, compared to other places where there might be less reporting of “gang activity” from individuals elsewhere.  I bet the map would have bigger, or at least more concentrations if there was a way to be more consistent with linking crimes to gangs.

April 17, 2012 at 10:35 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Well, once again, Fredo has taken one of these posts, added his obvious disdain for taxes and social services, and come up with a comment about something entirely different than was in the tone of the original post.

The article is about a survey on gang activity, and what we can possibly do about it.  Somehow, this has been translated into, “…making Tacoma a sanctuary for young gang bangers. sho’nough”, and perpetuating “another generation of low achievers” (and we know what Fredo means by ‘low achievers’ when we read his comment on April 10th on the Race and Pedagogy article).  I missed the part where this compilation of surveys and statistics espoused the view that we want to foster and condone this problem.  I guess I misunderstood the article, and read it as a study that said, yes, there is a problem, and these are some of the contributing factors.

April 17, 2012 at 10:37 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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If you look at the map one thing noticeable is that areas with a high density of gang-youth crime center around public transit (bus) centers.What could be done is to ban all youth (make an exception for certified disabled youth) between the ages of 12 to 21 from riding Pierce Transit buses.The youth gang thugs use public transit to get around to their hoods.Non disabled youth can either get a ride from their parents or else ride a bicycle to get around.

April 17, 2012 at 2:51 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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If the Politicians and Attorneys for <span class=“caps”>RICO</span> along with the non-violent peaceful taxpayer of America would re-read the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. They would see that the Founders made it easy to outlaw street gangs as enemies of the nation. We have a right to peaceful assembly not just to assemble. By their very nature, street gangs are not peaceful assemblers and therefore do not have any rights under the U.S. Constitution. They do not have rights to claim turf. They should be looked at as insurgent, emerging nations and dealt with like Al Qaeda. US the Rangers and Military to hunt them down and prosecute them <span class=“caps”>ALL</span>.

April 17, 2012 at 4:20 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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^^^ I like Gavriel’s comment ^^^

April 17, 2012 at 5:58 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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No gangs in Northeast Tacoma?

Umm then who are the thugs i see roaming around and who is doing all the gang tags up there?

I would rather walk through hilltop at 2am than Northeast Tacoma any time of the day.

April 18, 2012 at 8:30 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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In the First Amendment of our Constitution it states, among other things, “Congress shall make no law…the right of the people peacably to assemble…”

A couple of the previous comments merit some additional thought and conversation.

While I like the idea of using this as a tool against gang activity, we must be careful here.  Let’s say that you’re a cop, driving down the road and you see a group of young people standing on the corner. 

Do you stop to question them if they ‘look’ a certain way?  Not all gang members look like gang members, and these days lots of kids dress in saggy jeans and a sideways hat, just to be in style (my folks must have thought I looked like an idiot when I was in school). 

Do they appear to be loitering unlawfully, are they waiting for the bus, or simply hanging out?  My question now is, if you are going to stop and question an assembled group, how do you determine whether or not it’s intentions are peacable?  99% of the time, they are probably going to say that they’re not causing any trouble.  Can you order them to disband based on how they look, or the neighborhood that they are in?  Is there probable cause to search them, or even detain them for questioning?

Gavriel has made another false assumption/conclusion here.  Just because someone has broken the law (even one mentioned specifically in the Constution), it in no way means that they have forfeited the rest of their Constitutional rights. They’re not enemies of our nation, they’re just punks and common street thugs.  Don’t give them more credit than they deserve.

As to the issue of using the military to hunt gangs down like Al Qaeda…huh?  Do you really want miltary operations taking place in our neighborhoods?  Here’s a thought: let’s fund and equip the police better, strengthen our existing laws, and prosecute to the fullest extent possible.

And sorry jj, the idea of not allowing law-abiding citizens between the ages of 12 and 21 to ride on public transit is ludicrous.  A small percentage of the riders in this age group cause some trouble, and everyone gets penalized?  It’s not going to happen.  Do you really think for a second that Pierce Transit is the main source of transportation for gangs.

April 21, 2012 at 11:40 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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