Lower Valley wineries: 'We've been target of vandals for years'

Lower Valley wineries: 'We've been target of vandals for years'
ZILLAH, Wash. -- Pepper Fewel and her family own a sprawling farm and winery in the lower valley.

She says for years, the neighborhood was on edge. Vandals were breaking into tasting rooms and farms to get their hands on cash registers, electronics and equipment.

"Anything that they think they can resell, basically,” Pepper said.
Pepper says it seems the thieves targeted wineries and homes along Yakima’s wine belt. Thieves waited to break in until foremen and workers were busy in the fields.

"They were even taking personal things out of cars,” Pepper said.
However, recently the Lower Valley neighbors took a stand against the crooks.

Neighbors tell KIMA they formed a grassroots crime watch organization to look out for each other’s property and stay in touch with police. They say it might have helped contribute to the drop in crime.

“We're all vigilant and watching this I think that it's less this year, the last few years, because we were all tired of it,” Pepper said.

Pepper said neighbors will call each other quickly if they spot something suspicious. She said Yakima County deputies are showing up quicker and more often.

Thefts and burglaries have dropped in the Lower Valley.
KIMA pulled the numbers from the Yakima County Sherrif’s Office.

In 2011, there were more than 500 burglaries and more than 500 thefts in the Lower Valley. In 2012. Burglaries dropped below 400 cases and thefts were not far behind.

If 2013's year-to-date numbers continue, this year could see yet another drop.

Pepper said neighbors will keep protecting each other from the few sour grapes trying to ruin it all.

"You have to be proactive,” Pepper said. “You have to be vigilant."

KIMA did speak with a few winery owners who say there is still some vandalism.

Surprisingly, wine itself isn’t stolen very often.