Crimes with Weapons up 500% in Sunnyside

Crimes with Weapons up 500% in Sunnyside
SUNNYSIDE -- Last year, violent crime soared in Sunnyside. Murders, rapes, and assaults all jumped, and as KIMA learned, 2011 is already seeing that trend continue. In fact, crimes involving weapons have jumped from three in the first quarter of 2009, to 18 so far this year.

"It's so close to home, and it's almost like an everyday thing,” said Dennis Bottineau.

"It's horrible,” Tara Collins. “I want to cry just thinking about it."

KIMA spent the day talking with several neighbors. They all have the exact same worries. In fact, they tell said it's more common for them to hear gun shots than children playing.

"There's no way a family can be family-oriented here,” Collins said. “You have to be holed up, even in the summer because of the fear."

And these folks have every reason to be afraid. Sunnyside Police said violent crime continues to rise.

KIMA dug up the numbers and found that to almost be an understatement. In just two years, the number of weapons crimes has shot up 500 percent. In the first quarter of 2009, there were three cases, while this year, there have already been 18.

Police said the vast majority are gangs targeting each other, but since they're using bullets, it puts everyone danger. KIMA learned the majority of shooters are using high-powered rifles, upping the chances that an innocent bystander could be hurt.

"Oh, it's very likely, especially when they're shooting from a moving vehicle,” said Deputy Chief Phil Schenck. “There is potential to hit houses, cars, or unintended victims, and we've seen that in the past few drive-bys."

Police told me most shootings happen at night between 8 and 2, and on the weekends. They said they're doing everything they can to increase their presence on these streets.

"We're putting extra officers on those times that the crimes are happening on overtime,” Schenck said. “We're beefing up staff on the weekends."

But until those numbers start to drop, weekends are filled with fear for families like the Collins’.

KIMA also learned the Sunnyside City Council has approved the creation of a two man gang unit, and the addition of a crime analyst for the department. They are currently in the process of finalizing a budget for those new positions.