Recent legislation passed in Washington state now defines what a gang member is, according to Sunnyside Police Chief Ed Radder.
Radder told the Sunnyside Noon Rotary Club yesterday (Monday) that wasn't always the case. During last year's legislative session, Washington lawmakers took a proposed gang bill that was 77 pages and whittled it down to 11 pages. What came out of it was a legislative committee to investigate the gang problem in Washington.
The city of Sunnyside didn't want to wait for the committee's findings and passed its own gang ordinance in 2007.
Since then, Radder said, he has been asked a lot if the gang ordinance in Sunnyside has been successful. Radder said it has.
But, he cautioned the success can not be measured by arrests.
"Before the ordinance was passed we were averaging two drive-by shootings a week," Radder told the Rotarians. "After the ordinance passed we went 45 days without a shooting."
There were no arrests that could be pointed out to say the ordinance was successful but Radder said the drop in shootings shows the ordinance worked.
Radder also said the ordinance forced some gang members to leave the area, which benefited Sunnyside.
Radder said the Sunnyside Police Department took an aggressive measure against gangs during community events even before the ordinance passed.
He said during last year's Cinco de Mayo celebrations the police department had credible leads that a murder was going to be committed at the event. Police then decided to ban all known gang members from the Cinco de Mayo events.
"Not only wasn't there a murder," Radder said, "there wasn't even a fight."
The ban on gangs continued for Sunshine Days.
The recent legislation passed in Washington defining what a gang is follows closely what the Sunnyside ordinance defines what gangs are.