Northwest NEWS

August 9, 1999


Guest Editorial

A focus on community safety

by Gov. Gary Locke

   As governor, I have made community safety one of my top priorities. We should know that when we send our children to school, they will be nurtured and educated, not maimed or killed. We should be able to walk through our neighborhoods without worrying about being mugged or attacked.

   That's why I asked the Legislature to pass the Offender Accountability Act, which I signed into law in May. What it says to felons when they are released from prison is this: "You have done your time, but we are not done with you."

   The Offender Accountability Act gives more authority to parole officers out in the communities to supervise felons after they are released from prison. It is long overdue.

   I also asked the Legislature for more funding to address the problem of violence in our schools. We got a good start on this in both the regular session, and in a special session I called in May. The money allocated by the Legislature will go toward solutions at the local level, solutions that have a proven track record.

   These can range from better security to training programs that will help teachers and students spot potential school violence before it happens. The emphasis on local solutions is important, I think. State government does not know what is best for every community. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.

   For example, in June, I met with a special law enforcement unit in Vancouver that has dramatically reduced gang-related activity in some areas there. The unit, known as the Vancouver Anti-Gang Task Force, has done this by teaming police and sheriff's deputies with state corrections officers in a concentrated effort. Law enforcement agencies track gang activity, and they share it among themselves. This, in combination with the intensive outreach efforts of the law enforcement officers to community groups, has helped neighbors to take back their streets.

   I encourage you to get involved with a community safety program where you live. You can help make your streets safer, and by doing so, you'll be doing your part to make Washington a better place to live, work, and raise a family.