Gangs In Yakima/ Smile Now-Cry Later

Gangs In Yakima/ Smile Now-Cry Later
YAKIMA -- Officer Chris Taylor is under no false illusion. His days will always begin at night. His focus; a problem he knows will never go away.
After just 2-years on Yakima's Gang Enforcement Unit, Taylor has memorized hundreds of faces, how to tie those faces to names, hang-outs, vehicles, brothers and girlfriends.
And he is under no false illusion that anyone of them could cause or become Yakima's next homicide.

"The gang members are getting, they're getting more violent. We're starting to get into the same crimes the bigger cities have," say Gang Unit officer, Chris Taylor.

In this war, few are allowed to walk the streets of known gang neighborhoods without being stopped. As is so often the case, this gangbanger was carrying a little something extra.

"This guy doesn't have a job. He sells drugs. And one of the things people will say is, oh it's just marijuana. Well, a lot of your problems come these guys fighting over this ya know."

And Taylor's Next call may have something to do with one of those fights. Shots have been fired at a home. Taylor and other officers arrive in seconds to catch three bangers rolling out of the alley. As usual, few neighbors are talking. Experience tells gang enforcement the proof they need is in the trunk.

It is after midnight and officer Taylor will have to wake a judge to get the search warrant he needs.
Then it's straight to impound where instinct once again pays off.

"There it is right there!"

"We believe this is the weapon that was used in the shots fired earlier tonight."

And there's more.

A fully loaded, sawed-off shotgun was wrapped in blankets, ready to add fire to the reputation of gang violence that is sticking to Yakima.

Sgt. Erik Hindebrandis the head of the gang unit. "They've ingrained themselves in survival which most often now involved having weapons and being prepared if they do encounter a rival somewhere. They're ready to defend themselves."

" Out numbering and outgunning police. Yakima's two major rival gangs are Nortenos with more than 150 documented members and Surenos with more than 200. Combine that with a half dozen smaller gangs and the numbers total more than 500. With hundreds more not willing to admit their gang affiliation. It's a small number but their impact is huge... Most are armed, most deal drugs for a living and all understand that violence equals respect. And the more willing to kill, the more respect there is to gain."

Jay is a former Norteno gang member. "There was always somebody you could depend on."
Jay joined Yakima's Norteno gang 2-years ago. He was 14. His role... Sell drugs, and find rival Sereno gang members and pick fights.

"The more work you put in the more you're known. Like if you get in a whole bunch of fights, you beat other people up, they're gonna know who you are."

We are hiding Jay's identity because Jay left Norteno a few weeks ago. The 16-year old grew tired of the threats against his family, the harassment by police and rivals and knowledge that sooner or later, he'd be sitting in a jail cell or laying in a coffin.

"You don't have to watch your back no more. You can walk and not have to be looking back. Or you don't have to have a belt to represent who you are, or bandana, shirt whatever."

But Jay well be the first to tell you he is the exception.... Few who enter a gang, ever leave.

Gangs in Yakima are evolving... The younger generation of members is more violent, more unpredictable, less respectful of the community at large.

For officers like Chris Taylor, the challenge is clear... And so to is the reality for the city of Yakima.

"Unfortunately things like this never go away. Gangs don't go away. They're not gonna leave Yakima. No matter how many officers we have, no matter if we put officers on every city street."

In Taylor's own words.... Control is the best we can hope for.