Yakima County has most gangs per capita in state

YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. -- Yakima County wants to stop the growing infiltration of gangs. Yakima County has the most gangs per capita in the state.

Eduardo Lustre remembers his days in a gang. He said those four years were stressful and scary.

"How easy is it to join a gang here in the Yakima Valley?" KIMA asked.
"It's pretty easy," said Eduardo. "You look anywhere and you'll find at least 10, 20 guys from different gangs scattered everywhere."

Eduardo said he became a gang member at just 14. He believes he might have picked a different road if more activities for kids had been available. Eduardo also feels a personal connection could keep kids off the streets.

"Kids they like to be asked 'How's your day? How you are doing?' It makes you feel like you're important," said Eduardo.

Yakima County ranks third highest in the state for the number of active gangs since 2010. It falls behind King and Pierce Counties. But we are still tops for the most gangs per capita. It's a dubious title Yakima County has held for the last 20 years.

Yakima County prosecutors said the gang unit works with the courts on new tactics to control the problem.

"Learning who the gang members were, the active gangs, and have a group of prosecutors around long enough that will be familiar with those faces," said Yakima County Gang Prosecutor Troy Clements.

YPD believes in many things Eduardo does like educating kids at an early age about gangs, and opening facilities for kids to stay active. Harsher sentences have also made a difference recently.

"The amount of gang-motivated shootings has dropped radically and I think part of that is aggressive prosecution and getting the worst of the worst off the streets," said Troy.

Eduardo remains optimistic we can remove that title of too many gang members.

"It's possible to do better of your life," said Eduardo. "It's never too late to change."

YPD's gang unit will be on duty seven days a week starting in January.