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Cantwell Congratulates Washington State Sheriffs on Efforts to Combat Gangs

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Cantwell Congratulates Washington State Sheriffs on Efforts to Combat Gangs
Calls for Continued Focus on State and Nationwide Fight Against Gangs and Drugs

Wednesday, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) congratulated the Spokane Sheriff's Department, and federal law enforcement agenciesfor the multi-jurisdictional arrests in Spokane, ending a 20 month investigation to fight gang-related activity in these communities. Cantwell has long pressed to make fighting gangs and drug trafficking a priority, and has fought for increased federal resources for state and local law enforcement.

"I want to thank Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich and the members of the Gang Enforcement Task Force, for their leadership in getting violent gang members off our streets and putting drug traffickers out of business," said Cantwell. "I would also like to thank the federal law enforcement agencies involved. It shows what can be accomplished when federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies work together. I applaud them for making our streets a little safer today. We must keep up this fight against gangs and drugs, and we cannot afford to ignore gang-related crime or its impact on our communities."

Today's multi-jurisdictional action resulted in 16 federal search warrants involving 31 people and 15 arrests, some occurring in Spokane. Arrests were made by an interagency gang task force, GET (Gang Enforcement Team) partially funded FBI safe streets task force for gang crime. Additional groups involved were the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), Washington State Patrol, and Spokane City and Valley police.

"Today local, state and federal law enforcement officers continued their efforts to make our streets and our children safe. It must be understood that gangs are criminal enterprises that recruit our children to further their goal of making money. They involve our children in the sale of drugs, guns, and child prostitution. We as a community must do everything in our power to stop them in their endeavors and to protect our children," said Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich.

In 2006, the Washington Attorney General's office found that gang activity rose throughout the state. Likewise, violent gang crime has surged nationwide over the last several years.

In response, Cantwell has urged federal, state, and local law enforcement to work more closely together to fight gangs and drugs. Over the last several years, she convened roundtable discussions with federal and local law enforcement and community leaders in Spokane, Tacoma, Seattle, and other parts of the state to discuss growing gang violence and to explore links between gang and meth trafficking. Last year, the Senate passed the Gang Abatement and Prevention Act of 2007, which Cantwell supported, to establish tougher federal penalties to deter and punish gang members and provides more than $1 billion in funding for gang enforcement, prevention and intervention programs over five years. She has also pushed for increased funding for COPs and Byrne/JAG Grants.

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