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Yakima’s Juvenile Gang Court Finding Some Success

Harold Dehlia says Yakima county is thinking outside the box when it comes to dealing with young gang members. The countries first juvenile gang court is now a year old and it’s already seen two graduates. Dehlia is the county court administrator who says they’re now taking the next step. He says the court has received a 109 thousand dollars state grant to fund the opening of community centers.

The community centers are expected to be open in Yakima, Toppenish and Sunnyside by the end of the year or early next year. The centers would be designed to help steer young people away from gangs and give resources to parents.

The very first juvenile gang court opened its doors earlier this year in Yakima. The court offers a new approach to dealing with teens in gangs. It was the first in the country but now other counties and states are following Yakima’s lead including officials in the Tacoma area and in the state of Texas.

The court is optimistic about this program because the kids volunteer to participate. It may seem like a good deal for them to avoid getting locked up, but it’s also good for tax payers. The program will save about $150,000 annually that would have been spent to keep juvenile gang members behind bars. The city of Yakima is working closely with the police athletic league to open the center.

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