City hopes to double gang unit, but can Yakima afford it?

YAKIMA, Wash. -- Gangs in Yakima could get more attention from police. KIMA learned there's a push to double the size of YPD's gang unit. Yakima's City Manager said it's time to do it and thinks he can find the money.

Gangs and the issues that come with them are the number one problem here in Yakima according to recent city surveys. That's echoed on the streets.

Tony Lemus has lived in Yakima for nine years. He thinks the gang unit is a good idea, but there needs to be more.

It's hard for officers to do much when there are only five in the gang unit. They work five days on and five days off. Police Chief Dominic Rizzi and City Manager Tony O'Rourke want to change that. They want to double the officers so the gang unit would be on patrol seven days a week.

"Why weren't we out there 7 days a week before this," asked Action News.

"I think resources and prioritization," said city manager Tony O'Rourke. When I first got here, I recognized five people out of the 140 or three percent. The gang issue is definitely worth more than three percent of our police resources."

The expansion is expected to cost almost half a million dollars. The big question is how can the city afford it? City manager Tony O'Rourke said increased sales revenue.

Some people feel we need tougher laws instead. The city manager said tougher laws won't make a difference if officers aren't ready to enforce them.

"We want to fine and prosecute people that are involved with graffiti, but the gang unit hasn't had sufficient time or resources to do the investigations and therefore do the case to prosecute with the second unit we will have the time," said O'Rourke.

Yakima City Council will meet next Tuesday to consider whether the gang unit should be expanded.