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'Operation Crossfire' nets 20 arrests in S'side

145 arrests county-wide

Operation Crossfire lived up to its name as the eight-day joint effort resulted in 145 arrests throughout Yakima County this past week, 20 of them in Sunnyside.

It involved a partnership with cities and other agencies up and down the Yakima Valley, and targeted suspects believed to be gang members or involved in violent crimes.

The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) directed Operation Crossfire, which began July 29 and ended Aug. 6.

"It definitely showed some results for us to have 20 of the arrests come from Sunnyside," said Phil Schenck, deputy chief for the Sunnyside Police Department.

Schenck said the city had 14 different officers who at one time or another worked in conjunction with Operation Crossfire. "It's definitely nice to work with the federal government and their resources," he said.

Gary Mayfield, the resident ATF agent in charge of Operation Crossfire, said the county-wide partnership from Mabton to Yakima stemmed from concerns over gang activity.

"I initiated the idea about a month ago because of what we perceive to be a serious gang problem in Yakima and the Lower Valley," Mayfield explained.

He said a joint effort was needed because gang members move from one city or jurisdiction to another when they sense a strong law enforcement push.

"I don't think something this large had been attempted before," Mayfield said of the operation, which also received help from Yakima County, the state and other federal agencies. "We worked in conjunction with one another and were able to target the whole area (the Yakima Valley) at one time. We did our homework."

The homework included obtaining warrants and a list of stolen vehicles from each operation partner, as well as determining the highest crime areas of each city. "We worked hand in hand with each other," Mayfield said.

In Sunnyside six people were arrested on felony charges and 14 for misdemeanor charges. Mayfield said the smaller cities of the Lower Valley-Mabton, Granger and Grandview-combined to have eight felony arrests and four misdemeanor arrests.

Countywide, the felony charges ranged from possession of illegal firearms-in one instance a sawed-off shotgun-to stolen vehicles and narcotics.

Mayfield said the misdemeanor charges included possession of small amounts of marijuana.

All 145 suspects, some with multiple warrants, were taken to Yakima County Jail.

Mayfield said Operation Crossfire's success means it will not be a one-time effort.

"This is an ongoing operation," he said. "We expect additional information and we are going to continue in some form or another."

Schenck couldn't agree more.

"We will definitely be looking to this in the future as a tool," he said. "We're not going to let up, and we want to make sure our community is safe."

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