YPD prepares for possible spike in drive-bys after significant decrease

YPD prepares for possible spike in drive-bys after significant decrease

Yakima, Wash.-- There's some progress in keeping one of the more frightening gang crimes under control. The KIMA Crime Tracker found drive-by shootings in Yakima fell significantly last year. It's a crime that can catch innocent people in the crossfire.

Austin Francis has lived in Yakima for almost five years. He has seen what gangs do in the city.

"It's scary to walk on the streets by yourself sometimes," Francis said. 

Austin's family has had a close call with a drive-by shooting.

"My aunt was sleeping and her husband was sleeping right next to her and they hear ten, fifteen shots right at the house next to them," he said.
    
That shooting was one of the ten reported drive-bys in 2013. It's a big drop from 23 in 2012. YPD credits tougher penalties against gang members and the department's expanded gang unit handling the detail seven days a week.

"It made a huge difference," YPD's Sgt. David Cortez said. "It let us, it allowed us to go ahead and hit a variety of different places in the city."

YPD says officers put away several high-ranking gang members who had the power to order the violence. And, that drive-bys went down with them out of touch to call the shots.

"Without their presence, these gang members aren't doing it," Cortez said. 

But, now the gang unit is bracing for drive-bys to increase again. YPD says some of these gang leaders are back on the streets.  

Cortez is trying to be realistic about keeping the crime under control.

"We understand that we're not going to get rid of the problem," he said. "We know that, but we're, our goals are to decrease their activity to go ahead and keep our community safe."

People like Austin hope the violence stays away from him and his family. YPD doesn't have any immediate plans to add any more officers to the gang unit this year.