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Small Towns In Eastern Washington Battling Increasing Gang Activity

Police say gang activity is on the rise in the Northwest – even in small towns.

Now in the agricultural burg of Sunnyside, near Yakima, Washington, police and community groups are trying to fight back.

The community has just started work on a new anti-gang action plan. As correspondent Anna King reports, the move was prompted by a murder thought to be gang-related.

Francisca Ramirez Hernandez was just 14 years old. She was found earlier this month on the banks of the Yakima River in Central Washington. Her throat was slashed.

The girl’s death rocked the community.

Sunnyside and other Northwest towns have been experiencing increasing levels of gang violence for some time. Graffiti, shootings, murders.

But this girl’s death spurred Sunnyside’s Police Chief Phil Schenck to look for new solutions. He says the increasing trouble with gangs comes at a time when police departments and social services are facing the ills of a flagging economy.

Phil Schenck: “Well we’re in quite a dilemma. We’ve had very significant budget cuts this year; we’ve reduced our man power that we have available. So, we’ve really reduced our capacity to deal with gang problems.”

While gang activity appears to be on the rise in rural communities, Portland and Seattle report they’ve seen an increase in gang violence too.

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