EPHRATA – Prosecutor Angus Lee is planning on starting a gang prosecution taskforce.

The Grant County prosecutor sent a letter to the commissioners asking for permission to switch a deputy prosecutor to work on prosecuting gang-related crimes. The deputy prosecutor is presently handling traffic enforcement.

“Although traffic enforcement is critical to keeping our roadways safe, Grant County’s DUI conviction rate has been consistently above the state average,” Lee wrote. “In light of recent events, it appears to be an appropriate time to consider repurposing the traffic enforcement position.”

The recent events include a series of drive-by shootings on Arlington Drive in Larson, and the murder of Brandon Mende outside of a Turnkey Road home near Moses Lake.

The prosecutor’s office hired a deputy prosecutor to focus on gang-related crimes after it received a federal grant in 2010. Lee stated the addition of the position led to “some significant convictions and improvements in public safety.” He pointed to Royal City and Quincy where several active gang members have been convicted and sentenced to prison.

“Although we have maintained and improved on the capabilities of the gang prosecution position, I believe that a single position with a gang emphasis is no longer enough,” he said. “I am currently working inside the office to organize a gang prosecution taskforce that will be dedicated to the prevention and prosecution of gang activity.

The taskforce will handle gang-related crimes in superior, district and juvenile court. Lee stated it’s necessary to have a prosecutor in juvenile court since gang membership often starts when people are less than 18 years old.

“Likewise, because the most serious offenses are prosecuted in adult court, it is necessary to have a taskforce member in adult superior court,” he stated.

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