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King County sheriff tries to address gang violence concerns in Burien

BURIEN, Wash.  Less than three weeks after the unsolved shooting deaths of two teenage girls, the Burien City Council turned to King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht for answers

“We have some really bad gang bangers that we can’t allow to take over our streets,” Burien Mayor Jimmy Matta said.

Matta added that he’s been out in the community since the shooting to understand the street culture and concerns from people living here.

“It’s not just a Burien situation, it’s a county situation with some of these gang bangers who are trying to recruit,” said Matta.

Johanknecht addressed the concerns, saying she’s open to bringing back a sheriff's gang unit, which was cut about four years ago in King County because of budget reasons.

“We want to work with you through engaging our community about what we can do," said Johanknecht.

The sheriff’s office, Johanknecht said, is actively hiring for a community engagement position that she believes will help bridge the people of the communities like Burien with the police departments.

“We want to build trust, and in communities of color we need to go and have those conversations in the community,” Johanknecht said.

No exact timeline has been set on when a new community engagement position will be filled or when the city can expect to hear more on the potential return of a gang unit, but Matta expected it to take months. He said he will hold the police accountable to make safety a priority in Burien.