Exit133 is about Tacoma
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.”
- Gang activity is concentrated in particular neighborhoods.
- Involvement with gangs increases access to weapons and drugs, and, therefore, increases weapon- and drug-related crimes.
- Middle school is a critical time for at risk youth, when they are making decisions about joining a gang.
- 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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