Yakima police work to curb teen gang violence

Last month, four teens were shot in gang-related shootings in just five days

YAKIMA, Wash. — Yakima police are investigating a series of gang-related shootings last month that sent four teenagers to the hospital over a period of five days.

“We’re trying to determining who’s committing these violent crimes and get them off the street as quickly as possible before they injure or kill somebody and most likely an innocent person,” Capt. Jay Seely said.

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Police believe most of the incidents are unrelated and cannot point to why the incidents happened in such quick succession.

“It’s very cyclic: it comes and it goes,” Seely said. “Hopefully, if we put the right people in jail, we’ll see a downturn in the gang violence.”

Gang-related shootings injure four teens in less than a week

No arrests have been made in connection with two gang-related shootings Feb. 16 that sent a 16-year-old boy and 17-year-old boy to the hospital. Police do not believe the two incidents were related to each other or to the shootings that happened several days later.

“This is just the outcome of criminal gangs and their criminal enterprise and this is what they do,” Seely said. “This is why we don’t want them on the street.”

On Wednesday, a group of teens were driving around in a car that had been reported stolen the previous day when one of them shot a 16-year-old boy outside of Garfield Elementary School, near North Sixth and Fairbanks avenues.

“They shot at someone they knew that one of the kids in the car had previous altercations with,” Seely said.

The suspects eventually led officers on a high speed chase that ended with the teens crashing into a school bus near South 7th Avenue and West Walnut Street.

RELATED: Teens crash stolen car into Yakima school bus after gang-related shooting

Police said four teens were inside the car and were taken into custody for questioning. Investigators reportedly also found a gun in the stolen car.

“Two of the four were arrested and we’re working on probable cause for the third juvenile male that was in the car,” Seely said.

Several hours later, a 19-year-old was shot near Kiwanis Park in what police believe was a related incident.

“The one at Kiwanis was in retaliation for the one at Garfield,” Seely said.

Yakima police working to fix the problem

One of the small-scale ways officers are using to make a difference is eradicating gang-related graffiti throughout the city. Police officers are encouraging community members to report gang graffiti immediately so officers can get rid of it as soon as possible.

“We want them to report that because we gather information about gang graffiti … the writing, what names they’re putting up,” Seely said. “It helps us determine what resources we’re going to utilize and where we’re going to put them.”

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Yakima police officers are also working on a long-term, federally funded focused deterrence program to address the problem on a larger scale. Working with Project Safe Neighborhoods, the department is using crime statistics to predict and prevent gang violence, identify at-risk juveniles and work with local partners to get them help.

“We’re working very closely with civilian counterparts at Madison House and working with some of our counselors,” Seely said. “We’re working with people that can help these gang members choose a different path other than a gang lifestyle.”

Gang-related violence involving teens, kids in recent years

Within just the Yakima city limits, there’s been numerous gang-related shootings, stabbings and homicides involving teens in the past five years, including: