Q13 FOX Season of Giving

Days after shooting death in Burien, King County sheriff says she will steer funding to create gang unit

SEATTLE -- The King County Sheriff’s Office is no longer just talking about creating a gang unit; it is now proposing to spend nearly $900,000 to make it happen.

If the funding is approved, the sheriff's office would hire a sergeant and a detective to dedicate their time to combating the growing gang problem in South King County.

The news comes after Gabriela Reyes-Dominguez was killed last Wednesday while sitting in her employer's office in Burien. A stray bullet crashed through the office window and hit the woman. Police said teens with gang tries were targeting a man and his son walking on the sidewalk; they were not hit.

“This violence needs to stop,” King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht said.

Johanknecht said the tragedy is heartbreaking. She says the funding was in the works before Gabriela’s shooting but that the incident underscores the need for a gang unit.

Up until 2014, King County did have a regional gang task force but it was axed due to a lack of funding. It is unclear if there is any data that proved the effectiveness of the previous task force.

The sheriff also said that they would still have to figure out the workload and exactly what the two-person team would tackle on a day-to-day basis.

When asked what was driving the gang wars, the sheriff says many times it's about young people feeling disrespected or feeling like they have to protect themselves.

The sheriff says 10% of the youths are doing 90% of the crime.

But the question is can a two-person team make a real impact when it comes to this issue?

“We start small, prove our worth, work with partners and grow larger,” Johanknecht said.

The nearly $900,000 funding still has to be approved by the King County Council but as far as Councilmember Dave Upthegrove is concerned, it’s a wise investment.

“Public safety needs to be top priority of the county and the ability to make any positive step forward is a good thing; this is going to help not just Burien but around the county,” Upthegrove said.

Seattle Police already has a team of detectives who solely investigate gang crimes but most police departments do not.

The sheriff says law enforcement cannot make a difference alone. He says parents, community organizations and schools also have to work together to address the problem.