Gang Violence Easing Up or Getting Worse?

Gang Violence Easing Up or Getting Worse? »Play Video
YAKIMA COUNTY -- You hear about gang violence all the time. Just this week, two girls were shot in the Lower Valley. But is gang violence easing up or getting worse? Police say gang members are getting more violent this year.

"A violent offender that's had 4 to 5 violent crimes involving firearms and drive-by shootings and assaults... That's not good,” says Grandview Police Chief David Charvet.

It seems like gangs are on the rise, so Action News ran the statistics. Last year, Yakima had 191 drive by shootings and assaults. With eight weeks to go in the year, the numbers are down to 140. The city of Grandview had 84 drive bys and assaults last year. In this case, the numbers are up by 10, and the year isn't through. The sheriff's office counted 14 drive bys in the county last year, up to 26 this year. Police say the numbers are not all gang related, but most are. Former gang member Alex Santillanes expects the problem will only get worse.

"Now we have at least two generations deep of gang families here. Gangs are gonna continue here," says Santillanes. He adds gang members have easy access to firearms. All it takes is any type of drug, a couple dozen CDs, or even a favor to get one. When it's easy to get a gun, it's easy for kids to shoot kids.

"And now, elementaries are getting impacted by gang influence, so that kind of leads up more and more," Santillanes explains. Police can barely keep up.

"We're all bursting up the seams and something has got to change," says Chief Charvet. But change is something that is hard to come by when gangs may be here to stay. Santillanes has teamed up with police officers a people around the Yakima Valley to help end gang violence. They say community involvement is the best way to fight it.