Part 1 : Yakima's Gang Problem
YAKIMA, Wash. - Yakima police say their efforts against gangs are working but many people say it doesn't feel like that in their neighborhoods.
Out of the 12 homicides in the city this year, police said four of them were gang related and community members think gang activity is getting worse.
"It was bad, it’s getting worse and it’s gonna get worse, I know it is,” Eli Angelo Salazar said. “Now, somebody else is going to retaliate, it’s never going to come to an end.”
Most of those homicides were in East Yakima.
Eddie Abrams was 28 when police say they found him in February lying on the ground on E Spruce St, shot multiple times. They have no one in custody.
Kabin Smith was a 14-year-old boy police say was walking around W King and Cornell Avenue one April afternoon when someone drove by in a car and shot him. Police later arrested Luis Barrera and say he shot Kabin because he was wearing red.
Raymond Moreno-Hernandez was 26 and police say he was sitting in his car in the parking lot of the 8th Street Market and Deli in April when he was shot in the head. Police have no suspects.
Two weeks ago, 17-year-old Napoleon Prado Jr was walking down the sidewalk when he was gunned down, police say a 15-year-old with gang ties is the one that pulled the trigger.
Prado's cousin Eric Anthony Rodriguez said he was a good kid and didn't deserve this.
"This gang stuff is horrible, we have a 15-year-old kid that shot a 17-year-old kid and it’s all because of this gang violence and stuff that’s going on here in Yakima,” he said. “I believe in my personal opinion this city really needs Jesus."
According to federal data, 40 percent of gang members are under 18 and those numbers increase in rural areas like Yakima.
Sergeant Uriel Mendoza has been supervisor of the Yakima police gang unit for four years and said they have a total of 11 officers working daily on the gang problem in Yakima.
“If we start seeing an increase in crime in a certain area then we kind of flood the area and figure out what is going on,” he said. “Get to the root of the problem and why those crimes are taking place.”
Mendoza said gangs are operating different than they used too.
"Computer age allows them to be more secretive, you know where they’re not seen,” he said.
The police department and city council members both think the key to combating gangs is prevention.