Gang Free Initiative of Yakima introduces new programs

The summer months often bring with them an increase in gang activity.

Yakima took a big step in working to prevent that with the Gang Free Initiative holding an open house to introduce some brand new new programs.

"Well it's pretty important because kids my age are doing things they're not supposed to, so this will teach them something better," said Eduardo Arias, Gang Free Initiative Student.

The Gang Free Initiative in Yakima works by reaching out to youth that are either in gangs, or at risk of joining one, and providing them with tools and resources to change their lifestyle.

"And so by doing an intervention and getting that support around that family and those kids, we truly are starting to see outcomes that make a huge difference in how the kids think about themselves and the opportunities they have for more success," said Linda Kraft, Executive Director of Yakima Police Activities League.

In addition to the mentoring and tutoring programs that have been in place, the GFI has added counseling for metal health and a gang prevention and intervention hotline.

"Everybody needs people to support them along the path that they're going to have, so in that case, I think its going to be, it can be very successful," said Alan Kearns, Therapist at Comprehensive Health.

The hotline, which is the first of its kind for gang prevention, is a confidential and free service that allows people to call in if they are concerned someone is at risk of joining a gang, or even for gang members that need help getting out.

"It can be such an overwhelming process when you're in a crisis and you think, I don't even know where to begin, they just need to remember 211," said Stacy Kellog, 211 Operations Manager.

"It helps them in life if they're having problems, it shows them what's good," said Eduardo.

The goal of the Gang Free Initiative is to reach out to children at a young age so they can provide them with the tools and resources necessary to make positive decisions.