SPOKANE, Wash. – The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office said there are at least 800 gang members in Spokane.
If you go to SpokaneGangs.org you will find an outdated website with information from a study done in 2010. It shows a list of active gangs here in Spokane and reported 800 active gang members. Eight years after that study was released, an organization is now tackling gang involvement in a new way.
“There is absolutely a gang presence and it started 35 years ago. Ten years ago, there was a study done that said there were 800 gang members and 400 affiliates in Spokane this is coming from over 200 gangs,” Spokesperson for the Fulcrum Institute Nicole Bishop said.
The study comes from the Spokane Safe Street Task Force. They said general gang activity is still the same from 2010 with even a slight increase due to population. GRIPS, known as the Gang Repression Intervention and Prevention Program, is combating gangs with giving kids a way out through mentorship.
“Somebody in their life to show that we care you don't have to do this,” Bishop said.
For the first time, GRIPS is partnering with the Spokane Human Rights Commission to strengthen families, improve school performance and reduce criminal activity.
“One of the big parts that entices people into gangs is that they get respect, they get membership, and some sort of comradery,” Bishop said.
When all of that is replaced with a mentor, Bishop hopes to see change. Many of the mentors have been involved in gangs or criminal activity themselves.
“To give some of the insight and credibility to a kid that says, 'You don't know my life,' they might have an idea,” Bishop explained.
Spokane does see a presence from national gangs, but Bishops says the wannabe gangs can be just as dangerous.
“Kids mainly who will do anything to try and get the attention and credibility of organized gangs,” she said.
Middle schools and juvenile detention centers see the largest demographic involving gang related violence in Spokane County. The problem still faces Spokane eight years later so now this program hopes to be the beginning of real change.
Spokane Safe Street Task Force leaders said they are currently working on a new gang assessment and new numbers are in the works. GRIPS is now looking for mentors for the program.
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