Sunnyside gang problem improves in last couple of years

SUNNYSIDE, Wash. -- It's a problem Sunnyside has been working hard to clean up. KIMA learned the gang problem has gotten better in the last couple of years.

Maria Melendrez has lived in Sunnyside for more than 40 years. She feels a sense of security when her grandkids play at the park. She doesn't worry about crime as much now that she sees more police around.

"They're going back and forth," said Maria. "You call them up, they're there right away."

Maria thinks the gang problem in Sunnyside has improved. Vanessa Alvarado also agrees. She said she saw a lot of gang problems in the mid-90s.

"It was really bad at the time," said Vanessa. "There were a lot of gangsters here carrying weapons, things like that. A lot of fighting."

KIMA dug up the numbers to see how many gang incidents there's been in Sunnyside since 2009. It dropped slightly from 2009 to 2010. Then it jumped 130 incidents from 2010 to 2011. It dropped again by nearly 26% in the last two years.

"Police have really enforced this problem and it's really worked," said Maria.

"Right here where I live now they patrol a lot," said Vanessa. "I see them here a lot by the schools all the time."

Sunnyside police credit their gang elimination strategy, additional officers, increased patrols, and crime free rental housing in helping to cut down gang problems.

"Now that they do tagging and they do theft and stuff," said Maria. "They know they're being watched a little closer now."

KIMA also looked at the number of gang incidents from 2005 to 2012. There was an average of 102 gang incidents over that time period.