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Gang violence, getting more police officers among priorities for Yakima city leaders

Gang violence, getting more police officers among priorities for Yakima city leaders.

YAKIMA, Wash.- The new YMCA aquatics center and downtown plaza have gotten most of the city's attention over the last few weeks.

But Yakima city council members say they're still focused on bringing down gang-related violence in the area.

“Gang activity impacts the quality of life throughout the city. Whether people are living in an area where there are gang members or they live in a different area and they're hearing about those instances,” District 1 council member Dulce Gutierrez said.

She was one of the speakers at the 'State of the City' talk. Where city leaders laid out their priorities going forward.

She said one way to handle gang violence, is by prevention.

Gutierrez said the Yakima School District wants to work with the city to give kids places to go and things to do as soon as school is let out.

“Those are the hours where youth are the most vulnerable to getting into activities they shouldn't be or their own safety be in jeopardy,” she said.

Another way to combat this violence is with more police officers on the streets.

Mayor Kathy Coffey said they have the resources to hire more, but the system to get an officer through the academy has backlogged them from joining YPD.

She said there's only one academy in the state of Washington for officers to go through, which has caused the process to take longer than it should.

“We can hire them and we can keep them with busy work as far as learning other things, but they have to go through the academy and be accredited before we can put them on the streets,” Coffey said.

Once more officers are added to the force., she said community policing is something she would like to see happen.

Which means getting YPD out of their cars and into communities to better understand how they can serve each part of the city differently.

“We did that many years, but because of budget cuts and the lack of officers we've had to cut back on that,” Coffey said.

Both Coffey and Gutierrez said these are two separate issues, but they go hand-in-hand when it comes to keeping Yakima safe as a whole.

The council members also said they're working on finding a permanent location for a homeless shelter in Yakima.

They say a long-term solution is needed. Instead of constantly moving it around like it has over the last couple years.

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