House approves Johnson-Ross criminal gang nuisance bill
Amended measure blends both 14th District lawmakers' gang nuisance bills to curb criminal gang activity
The House of Representatives took action Friday evening to approve a measure that would authorize additional legal options to curb criminal gang activity. The vote was 90-6.
As originally written, House Bill 2414, prime-sponsored by Rep. Norm Johnson, 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.
Johnson's seatmate, Rep. Charles Ross, also had prime-sponsored a similar measure, House Bill 2550, which would authorize counties to adopt nuisance procedures for gang injunctions, restraining orders and other actions to reduce criminal gang activity.
Although Ross' measure passed the Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Committee and was awaiting action on the House floor, the 14th District lawmakers decided to join the two bills together for one “omnibus” gang bill.
Johnson said the result is a much stronger measure through HB 2414 that would help deter rapidly growing criminal gang activity in neighborhoods throughout the state.
“Criminal gangs have not only infiltrated our communities, they are recruiting children into a dead-end life of hate, drugs, prison and death. People should not have to live in fear in their own homes because of gangs in their neighborhoods,” said Johnson, R-Yakima. “It is time to take action against this blight in our communities.”
“We're putting criminal gangs on notice: we will not allow you to terrorize our communities, and we will do everything in our power to stop the graffiti, the violence, the disruption in our neighborhoods,” said Ross, R-Naches. “I'm very proud of the bipartisan work done on this bill to make sure we are serious about violence, but also protect the rights of individuals. We combined several things people in our district asked for to address criminal gangs, and I think this will empower more action in our brave communities.”
Last year, as many as 25 people were killed by gunfire in Yakima County. Most of those homicides were gang-related. Johnson and Ross said that while criminal gang activity has become a serious problem in the 14th District, it is also a growing epidemic in other communities and neighborhoods across the state.
“This measure is another brick in building a wall I pray will eventually lead to the elimination of criminal gangs,” said Johnson. “If gang members are feeling the pressure of the community, the heat of law enforcement, and a strong possibility they will go to prison, it is my hope they think twice about continuing their involvement in these crimes.”
“This is the very reason I wanted to represent the people of my district: to end the violence and make sure people feel safe where they live and work,” Ross said. “I look forward to watching how we can transform neighborhoods across the state with these powerful tools for citizens and local officials.”
The measure now goes to the Senate for further consideration.
###Washington State House Republican Communications