Johnson criminal gang nuisance bill clears committee

“It’s another important tool to help us get a handle on the growing criminal gang problem in the Yakima area,” Norm Johnson said Monday after the House Judiciary Committee approved House Bill 2414 . The measure, which Johnson introduced, would classify criminal gang activity as a nuisance and provide a process for neighbors or anyone within a one-block radius to file legal action to stop that activity.

“Last year was one of the bloodiest in the history of Yakima County. Much of the gunfire that erupted was gang-related. Innocent people were shot, injured and killed. Gangs have not only infiltrated our communities, but they are recruiting children into a dead-end life of hate, drugs, guns, prison and death,” said Johnson, R-Yakima. “It will take time to clean this filth from our communities, but it is like building a wall, brick by brick. I see this legislation as another brick in the wall against criminal gangs.”

Johnson said he was especially moved by testimony last month from a 17-year-old girl who attends Davis High School in Yakima.

“This courageous girl came home after participating in a bowling group and was getting ready for bed when she heard a loud explosion outside of the duplex in which she lived. She realized it was a gunshot and went to her bedroom window where she saw gang members running down the street. Soon, she heard more gunshots and they began coming through her window. One bullet hit her door. She gathered up her little sister and her brother, both of whom were very frightened. Together, they laid flat on the floor until the shots subsided,” said Johnson. “I’ll never forget her innocent young face and how she was pleading to the legislative committee for help for herself and her family. This was a gang-related shooting in a Yakima neighborhood and it’s becoming all too common. People should not have to live like this, in constant fear in their own homes.

“This legislation essentially empowers neighbors who are bothered by nearby criminal gangs to formally file a complaint and sign an affidavit outlining the suspected activity. From there, law enforcement would be mandated to investigate. This may follow with a court injunction, restraining orders, a search of the property, and other means to eliminate this nuisance, including possible arrests,” Johnson added. “If gang members are feeling the pressure of the community, the heat of law enforcement, and a strong possibility they will go to prison, they may think twice about continuing their involvement in these crimes.”

The bill now goes to the House Rules Committee.

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