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Sunnyside on board with proposed Yakima Valley gang task force

Sunnyside on board with proposed Yakima Valley gang task force

The Sunnyside Police Department is looking forward to participating in a Gang Enforcement Team that will soon be formed in the Yakima Valley.

According to Yakima Mayor David Edler, the Gang Enforcement Team is in response to recent gang legislation passed in Washington state in 2008. The Yakima County Sheriff's Office then applied for, and received, a grant that would allow the formation of the proposed gang task force.

The Gang Enforcement Team will include officers from several agencies in Yakima County. One of those agencies will be the Sunnyside Police Department.

"This is just one more way we want to be working with other agencies to solve the gang problem," Sunnyside Deputy Chief Phil Schenck said.

Schenck said the Sunnyside Police Department doesn't have the money or the manpower to move one of their officers over to the Gang Enforcement Team full-time but said the department is looking forward to sharing information. One officer will act as a liaison. It is yet to be determined who that officer will be.

According to Schenck, gangs are and have been one of the highest priorities for the Sunnyside Police Department.

"We will try to do our best to find somebody to help," he added.

He said once the task force is formed an officer from the Sunnyside department will begin meeting with the team.

Schenck said participating in the Gang Enforcement Team is just one of many anti-gang activities Sunnyside is doing. The city partnered with the Sunnyside School District this year to form Choices, a classroom where at-risk students can go to complete their high school education.

Sunnyside also has a GREAT Officer, which works with students to combat gangs.

"The idea is to give the kids better choices so that the violence in these gangs is reduced," Schenck said.

The most effective anti-gang weapon the city has so far, according to Schenck is the student resource officers the department has. He said the SROs are in the middle and high schools everyday building relationships and trust with the students.

"With these relationships we're more likely to hear about things before they happen," he added.

- Corey Russell can be contacted at 509-837-4500, or email

CRussell@DailySunNews.com

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