The city of Sunnyside and the surrounding area has a lot of good qualities that would attract people and businesses to the area.
The weather is fairly mild. The people are friendly. The city is centrally located so a daily commute to Yakima or the Tri-Cities isn't unthinkable. A major interstate runs by it. The fresh fruits and vegetables are also a plus.
But the one thing that can negatively impact every single positive aspect of Sunnyside is the amount of violence this city has. It's horrifying and ridiculous.
It's horrifying because the violence touches so many innocent lives. It's ridiculous because a city the size of Sunnyside just shouldn't have this many shootings.
The population is slightly more than 15,000, but it seems we have as many shootings and murders as cities the size of Yakima or Pasco. Why is that?
A 13-year-old girl was shot this past Wednesday. She was shot twice and she's only 13! As this column was written she was at Harborview Medical Center where she is listed in critical condition.
No 13-year-old kid should have to worry about getting shot. They should be worrying about grades, pimples and members of the opposite sex. Waking up in a Seattle hospital with bullet holes should never be a reality for a 13-year-old kid.
Last summer a teenage boy was shot and killed because he was helping turn some lights on at the house of a neighbor who was out of town. The method of attack was a drive-by, the same method used in Wednesday night's shooting.
Just this past Tuesday, a 60-year-old man was shot while he was in his bedroom. This happened just outside of Sunnyside. Last December, another man was shot north of Sunnyside after some men came to his house.
The list goes on and on. People aren't shot on a daily basis but there is hardly a night that goes by where there isn't some type of weapon discharged and the incident is reported to the police. Sometimes it's just fools shooting at the moon. Other times it's people shooting at houses. The same night the 13-year-old was shot this week, a house in Outlook was shot up. No one was injured.
The violence has become a scourge to Sunnyside. I think it's probably the number one reason why people move away from here.
So what do we do? It's hard to come up with answers, at least legal answers. Maybe more cops are the solution. More cops certainly couldn't hurt.
If there are four patrol cars on duty every shift, maybe it's time to put eight patrol cars on duty. If there are four detectives on staff, maybe it's time to have eight. Just double everything.
I know that's a lot easier to say than to do. To double the number of officers and detectives would take money, and lots of it. That puts the ball into the citizens' court.
If people are serious about getting this violence to stop then they have to put their money where their mouth is. The only thing that's going to put more cops on the street is more taxes.
Would having more police officers on the streets help? Again, that's impossible to tell, but I believe it would. With eight patrol cars on duty at a time, the areas where the drive-bys are most frequently reported could be saturated with coverage.
But, the citizens have more of a responsibility than just paying higher taxes for a larger police force. They have a duty to become the eyes and the ears of the police department.
People know whether the street they live on is targeted by gangs. If people are sick of the violence, then it's time for them to organize into block watches. Get into groups and patrol your streets armed with paper and pencil, a camera and a cell phone. If you see something suspicious, write it down, take a picture and call the police.
It's time to take YOUR streets back, before another 13-year-old kid wakes up in a hospital, or even worse, doesn't.