GRANDVIEW - After meeting last week with city and school officials and Yakima County Prosecutor Ron Zirkle, Grandview councilmen have decided to hold off for now on passing its own version of the Sunnyside gang ordinance.
City Administrator Scott Staples said that in that meeting, he learned that the city needs to "tighten" its definitions of intimidation and harassment in the municipal code before the juvenile cases can be prosecuted.
"What you want to accomplish and what schools want accomplished will not be if (you) don't tighten those up," Zirkle explained to council at its regular meeting Monday night.
Zirkle's staff did a side by side comparison with state law to the ordinance. "There isn't anything in the Sunnyside ordinance that isn't in state code," he said. One of the problems, he said, is that according to state law, when it comes to harassment cases, the victim must testify against the accused, which, in the case of gangs, would be very difficult to do. The example given was an eight-year-old child being harassed by a 15-year-old gang member. It would be very difficult to get the younger child to testify.
"You need a law that will define that differently," Zirkle said.
Zirkle said that the city needs to work on its code to clearly define what behavior it is that Grandview wants prohibited.
"The conduct that you wanted to address was not going to be addressed in the (proposed gang ordinance)," Zirkle said.
City Attorney Jack Maxwell wanted to clear the air on what he called a misconception, that the Sunnyside ordinance makes it illegal to be in gang. It's not, he said.
Zirkle also pointed out a juvenile can't be sentenced more than 30 days for a gross misdemeanor or misdemeanor.
"If people think we're going to put people in jail and throw away the key, that's not going to happen...the state legislature controls what juvenile courts do."
All council members agreed that they are using Sunnyside's ordinance as a spring board to create their own. And Zirkle has offered the help of his staff to work with the city on a gang ordinance.
"Sunnyside is making a valiant effort in their stepping out and getting something done," Mayor Norm Childress said. "You've got to start somewhere and our intent is to use the Sunnyside ordinance as a spring board."