Two officers added to YPD's gang unit

YAKIMA, Wash. -- More officers in the gang unit are having a direct effect on crime in Yakima. YPD said veteran officers can now be more proactive to prevent trouble.

Safety is something Robert Lemon hopes for especially for his kids. Crime, gangs, and chaos is how he describes his Yakima neighborhood. He talked about one particularly frightening incident.

"It started at the store across here on North 8th Street and the shooting started and I told my mom to get down and we all got down on the ground," said Robert Lemon. "It was about eight shots."

Robert said he hears shots fired quite frequently. Now that two additional officers were added to the gang unit, Robert has noticed a change in his neighborhood.

The supervisor of the gang unit said improvements can come simply. Like having officers talk to as many neighbors as they can.

"They can go ahead and change their mindset where if they were plotting, planning any type of criminal activity for that day, it may literally prevent that," said Sergeant David Cortez.

Last month, YPD's gang unit took eight guns off the streets. That's double the average. Gang unit officers are able to patrol three areas at once. They focus on spots with high gang activity like Sixth and Race Streets, Eighth and D Streets, as well as homes around Kiwanis Park.

The gang unit confiscated drugs and three guns from this house last month. They credit the bust with the added coverage offered by the new officers. Ilifonso Garcia is one of those officers. He's proud to be part of a change coming to Yakima.

"People we hear their frustrations," said Ilifonso Garcia. "They're tired of not being able to trust their kids by themselves to the park or go to the store because of some drive by that we've had in the last couple of years.

It's a change that's starting to make neighbors feel more at home. YPD still plans to add four members to the unit by the end of summer.