Engaging with young people in Tacoma could help build positive connections and increase safety

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As gun violence increases at an alarming rate in Tacoma, more children are at the center of these crimes. In one case, two teenagers have been charged as adults in the death of a 14-year-old girl who was shot dead in July.

In the latest series of ‘Talks with the Chief’ videos, Police Chief Avery Moore shared ideas on what he wants to see from officers to engage more with young people.

“We’re going to be available for the kids, we’re going to hug them, and we’re going to spend quality time with them,” Moore said in the video.

In his Talks with the Chief video, part of Moore’s message to officers was: “You drive down the street, you see kids playing basketball outside, pull over, go over a shot or two with them, talk- them. Let them know we love them, we’re here for them, we’re accessible.”

Gangs and gang-related violence have been this common in Tacoma for years – with more and more teens getting involved. In some situations, teenagers are also arrested with firearms in their possession.

At a time when there is little funding for staff and positive resources for children, the RISE Center finds a way to support the community. Under one roof, dozens of programs are offered at the center to help people find their way to a positive life.

“They start here first, and we figure out which program and what the needs are,” said Gerald Daniels, executive director of the RISE Center.

One of RISE’s programs is the El Comino Foundations for Multicultural Solutions, a program for people struggling with substance use and abuse. This includes advice for children who may be struggling with substance use.

“Especially in younger people starting in middle school, which was new to me. Like 12 years old, 11 years old, and things they were trying like marijuana, but then like psychedelics and acid, all kinds of things “said Sherrell Young, an addiction counselor.

“Substance use issues are everywhere in terms of the crimes that people are committing, it’s very prevalent. So that’s what we’re going through right now. So if we can have an impact on our young people, we maybe we can reduce that in the future,” said James White, an addictions counselor.

While RISE Center members said they appreciated Chief Moore’s call for officers to become more involved with young people, some said they would question the sincerity of the officer’s actions.

“It’s great that we interact with the community. But the kids watch how you monitor the community. So if you’re on the street harassing someone and they see that, it’s for nothing” , said Kenneth Moultry, Outreach Supervisor for Center RISE.

Moultry, a former gang member in California, said a solution to supporting young people should start by using people like him who have lived this life and found a positive outcome.

“People with shared lived experience can reach them, we can give them hope, we can show them that this thing is possible,” Moultry said. “Before you can teach, you have to reach. And if you don’t have that shared lived experience, they’re not going to take you seriously. They’re not going to see you as a person with a solution. Most of our kids here have lost hope in our system Whether it doesn’t happen at home or the street has a lot of influence, they are more influenced by what they see.

“Citizens in the community are not just talking about change but literally putting their hands in the plow and talking about change. I really hope to see that because if a child falls or starts to fall through the cracks, someone is going to make sure this kid gets picked up and we can get to the finish line with him,” White said.

Chief Moore said part of his crime reduction plan for the city is to create a youth program. It would focus on kids who may have broken the law or just met the wrong people. Children in the program would be connected to advice and resources to help them make better decisions for their future.

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