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Story Time

'State of emergency'

Yakima City Councilwoman Sonia Rodriguez, earlier this week, likened all the recent shootings and gang violence in Yakima as a "state of emergency." She called on city leaders to free up additional funding to combat the problem.

Rodriguez is right on with her description of what transpires on an almost daily basis. It really is a "state of emergency."

Unfortunately for those of us in the Lower Yakima Valley, the problem of gunfire and gang violence isn't restricted to just the city of Yakima. It's happening here at the same alarming rate.

Whatever is being done to bring a halt to all these shootings is not working. We look to our police departments to curb the violence, but it's clearly apparent their efforts are for naught.

I have two suggestions.

First off, it seems to me our police officers are burdened with far too many cases of motorists driving around without liability insurance or operator's licenses. Too much time is being spent on these infractions, not leaving time for our policemen to take on the weightier issues. My suggestion is to get these motorists off the streets so our cops don't have to spend their time dealing with them. This can be accomplished by enforcing municipal code 10.04.080, which allows the police to impound the vehicles of those arrested for not having a driver's license or liability insurance.

Impounding these vehicles shouldn't be an option to our police. It should be a mandatory policy, set down by either the police chief or the city council. Adopting a "zero tolerance" for this type of behavior, I believe, would soon rid our streets of these illegal drivers, and in the process free up time for our police officers to address all the violence that is occurring.

More would be needed, though, so secondly, we need to address the gang violence head-on. I believe we need a special unit of law enforcement officers that does nothing but search out these criminals, working the streets day in and day out in an effort to get these criminals arrested and out of our community and into prison.

But, that would take money. Rodriguez is calling on the city of Yakima to free up money from its general reserve fund to combat this problem. Sunnyside's reserves aren't large enough to fund such a gang task force. I believe, however, that if local residents were asked to approve a special law and justice levy, guaranteed that the extra tax money would only be spent on forming an anti-gang task force with officers trained to take on these types of violent criminals, the community would overwhelmingly support such an endeavor.

It's easy to come up with reasons why these suggestions wouldn't work. I believe it's more prudent to find ways to make them work.

Something needs to be done! Because we aren't getting these criminals off the street at a quick enough pace, it's time to try something different.

Rodriguez is right on when she says we are in a "state of emergency."

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