Gangs in Yakima Part 3

Gangs in Yakima Part 3 »Play Video
YAKIMA -- Yakima police chief, Sam Granato; as controversial as he has been effective. When Granato arrived 6 years ago, our persistent gang problem became his top priority.

"If I were to put it on a scale of 1 to 10, we're right at 4. And it's gonna get worse."

Four may not sound bad. But this police officer has seen 4 become 8 in short order.

"Problems like this don't get better by wishing them away or by arresting your way out of it."

Granato's efforts have been paying off. His small but intimidating gang enforcement unit with its jet black cruisers, black jump suits, full body armor and fearless staff has been a constant threat to the otherwise live and let die gang culture.
And even if we could clear the city streets of gangbangers... This pest has already spread like roaches from Selah to Sunnyside.

If gang crime and gang violence are regional problems, then why not solicit regional help? Enter the Violent Crime Task Force. An effort that combines the resources of agencies like YPD, The sheriff's office, ICE, Drug enforcement, The Department of corrections U.S. Marshals, ATF and many more. All coming together into a single force and taking on gang investigations with almost unlimited reach.

"My vision for that was there are the Wapatos, and the Toppenishes and the Mabtons and the Grangers that don't have the resources the Yakima YPD may have and to give them a resource for assistance for violent crimes and gangs in their communities. Yet what you do to help them also helps us. Absolutely."

And the Task Force has "absolutely" put some pretty big dents in gang resources and Leadership. By the end of last summer, local and federal agents picked off hundreds of thousands in gang tainted cash, drugs, and weapons. Enough to supply a gangbanger army with the kind of fire-power that would make a small country jealous.

Sgt. Randy Briscoe is a Sheriff's representative on the Task Force. "We have jurisdiction to go inside any city. We've got Federal Agents on our team that will assist us by going onto the reservation."

And when it comes to fighting fear with fear... The Fed's wrote the book. If you want to bring a gangbanger to tears... Start talking about federal weapons or Federal drug charges.

Jesse Summers with ATF says, "When you get convicted of a federal crime you're not getting 30 days in jail and gonna be out on the street. When you get convicted of a federal crime you're gonna get hit hard and you're gonna do 90-percent. If you're an angel in prison, you'll do 90-percent. And that's just the way the fed system works."

And the system is working.

Sgt. Joe Selinas is one of YPD's original gang enforcement officers. "Anybody that would tell you it's worse now than it was then, I can guarantee you wasn't here then."

It might be safe to say our gang problem hasn't gotten worse. Emphasis patrols, an active gang until and multi-jurisdictional efforts are doing their job. Still, there is universal agreement about which part of gang suppression is failing.

"We're going to be successful in solving crime as much as the community wants us to succeed."

It is the exception, not the rule when neighbors or witnesses to gang activity actually speak up. The fear of reprisal is a strong motivator to keep your mouth shut.

"There are probably people that aren't reporting things that they've seen and that's on them. We can only do so much. We can't be everywhere, " says Jessie Summers.

Chief Granato has employed every resource he can to bolster his gang enforcement efforts. What's most surprising to him... Is that a city, tapped by the state and perhaps the nation as a haven for gangs, has no strategic plan in place to shake the reputation.

"What are we doing to strengthen neighborhoods, the block watches, the clean-up, the graffiti paint outs and the code enforcements to help those neighborhoods revitalize themselves and sustain that? And no money is being put towards that."

Law enforcement is a small part of a much bigger solution. Even so, Gang enforcers like Chris Taylor will hold up his end... Knowing full well, for Yakima, there is no end in sight.

"My goal is to make the citizens feel like we're out there. We're helping. We're doing what we can and everything we can to put these guys away."

Until that happens, Gangs are a sign of these times in Yakima that's going nowhere fast.