Lack of funding will cut Sunnyside public housing officer position

SUNNYSIDE, Wash. -- A cut in funding will soon be felt in Sunnyside. People who live in public housing will lose the officer looking over their neighborhoods.

It only takes one to make a difference. And Chico Rodriquez makes that true.

"He responds right away to whenever anything goes on," said public housing resident Nancy Harvey.

Chico has been Sunnyside's HUD officer for four years. He's been instrumental in helping crime in public housing drop consistently. Elizabeth Estrada has seen the difference.

"There's been so much robbery and stuff, and now there's hardly none," she said.

"We have to be visible, we have to be proactive," said Chico. "We have to be involved in our community to make a difference."

But the money has run out, and the public housing officer position will be cut after Monday. That concerns Sunnyside police officers.

"Any time law enforcement is not in the area, crime will go up," said Rodriquez.

KIMA pulled the numbers. Crime has been cut in half in public housing over the last six years. In 2008, there were more than 200 total offenses. Last year, there were slightly more than 100.

So, what's the secret? Chico said it's about building trust with people in the community so they let him know what's going on.

"He was like a dad to me," said Elizabeth.

"They all have my phone number. I give that to them so they can call me day or night," said Rodriquez.

Nancy Harvey worries trouble will return without oversight from a public housing officer. No trespassing signs have reduced foot traffic and reduced crime.

"Since I've moved in here, as opposed to other parts of Sunnyside, I feel a lot safer," said Nancy.

As Sunnyside neighbors lose the officer who's kept watch over their homes for years.

Sunnyside police said they will try to maintain patrols in public housing units. Officials said if a grant becomes available to bring back the job, they will apply for it.