Crime in Sunnyside public housing is dropping

SUNNYSIDE, Wash. -- Chico Rodriquez is well known in the neighborhood and he's there to keep you safe.

"I see people coming out and enjoying their evenings and enjoying taking walks, feeling safe in their neighborhoods," said Chico.

Chico Rodriquez is more than an officer. Waving and saying hello, he talks to as many people as he can. Neighbors like Carolyn Riel take notice.

"I trust him," said Carolyn. "If anything happens here, he'd be the first person I call."

It turns out fewer people find the need to pick up the phone. KIMA found out calls to police for problems at public housing dropped for the first six months of the year. Calls dropped roughly six percent from 2011 to 2012. It was followed by a sharp improvement last year with calls down 30 percent.

"I can come out here and sit on my porch anytime I want to," said Public Housing Resident, Joseph Knowles. "Any time day or night. It doesn't matter."

"I leave my windows opened all night, my screen door opened all night," said Carolyn.

Sunnyside police said the department's gang elimination strategy and public housing officer have made the difference.

"We do see the lights flicker as they drive by and make sure nobody's camped out on our front porches," said Joseph. "We like that."

Officer Rodriguez keeps tabs on more than 100 public housing units. Trespassing and vandalism are the biggest problems.

"I see him go up and down quite a bit," said Joseph. "He stops, he checks."

It's an active presence that makes these neighbors sleep a little easier.

The federal grant that pays for the housing officer ends next March. Sunnyside applied to renew it. The city won't know if that's approved until December.