PASCO, Wash. - Drive-by shootings, homicides, drugs and even human trafficking define today's gang culture and for years those crimes have been on the rise. NBC Right Now continues to follow those stories as well as the stories of those working to combat the problem.
Jesse Campos founded F.I.R.M.E. some years ago. He's the sole paid employee, currently working with about 40 kids to get them out of the gang lifestyle.
"He's one person doing a million things and that's a big task. So hopefully this can ease some of this work," said Pasco Police Officer Raymond Aparicio.
The state legislature invested money for a Criminal Street Gang Prevention and Intervention Grant Program. Three $133,000 grants were handed out and one of those went to Campos' organization F.I.R.M.E. Locally, that will pay for two new outreach workers.
"With the overwhelming caseloads of individuals coming to the program, we needed help. I needed help. So this grant is really going to help us to facilitate that and take us to another level," said Campos.
"I think with the involvement with the police and programs like that, I think it's only getting better. We have the street crimes unit out there who are also hard at work and as far as night and day compared from last year to this year alone with the activity out there," said Aparicio.
Officer Aparicio is on F.I.R.M.E.'s executive board. He also sees the graffiti, drugs and violence on the streets everyday.
"A lot of people are surprised that kids get involved early on. Elementary school age kids and definitely in middle school as well. So we have to get involved with them when they're young," said Aparicio.
"We want to influence our kids to have a better future. Not only for themselves but for our community," said Campos.
The grant from the state will last nearly two years and it will be put to use starting November 1st. The organization is also hoping to find a new space with offices and classrooms for the program's curriculum.