New comprehensive youth gang project, organizers say it'll work - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

New comprehensive youth gang project, organizers say it'll work

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YAKIMA, Wash. -- There have been many attempts to curb Yakima County's gang problem, but it continues to grow. Organizers of the Yakima County Comprehensive Youth Gang Project say this time it'll be different.

"I'm optimistic because we've actually brought everyone together and we're all going in the same direction. When communities try to go ten different directions to solve a social program it doesn't work. This will work, I guarantee it," said Harold Delia, court administrator, Yakima County Courts.

This new plan attacks the gang problem from all angles, prevention, intervention and suppression. It's targeted at high risk children ages twelve to twenty one. Kids that are involved in gangs or likely to join.

Herold recalls a conversation he had with a former gang leader. "And he said to me, I'll never forget this 'If you don't want 'em, we'll take 'em' and I think that's what this is all about, the community has to step up and say we want you because the gangs will provide that service if we don't," said Delia.

Aimed at engaging youth the project includes: After school programs, school re-entry assistance, mental health and substance abuse treatment, the development of positive recreational activities, and specialized mentoring.

The group includes a who's-who of Yakima Valley leadership and Yakima County Commissioner Kevin Bouchey said it's going to take everyone to tackle the gang problem.

"If we have a community that's not actively engaged in this that just becomes a breeding ground or fostering ground for gang activities," said Bouchey.

Now this ambitious project is only being funded by $200,000 from the state, but Delia said they'll be getting $500,000 in August from the federal government and that's renewable for three years. They've also applied for a Gates grant.