CRIME TRACKER: Violent crime rising in Walla Walla

WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- The KEPR Crime Tracker discovered Walla Walla has more violent crimes per-capita than the Tri-Cities.

In a perfect world, Beverly Johnson would be able to walk Walla Walla's streets and not worry about crime. But beyond white picket fences and manicured lawns, there's a troubling reflection: gang crime.

"I know I taught my own children to respect adults. Adults don't have the respect from children anymore," Johnson says.

It's harsh words from a woman who's seen Walla Walla's neighborhoods change. The KEPR Crime Tracker noticed violent crime in Walla Walla has gone up for three consecutive years. It's led to an alarming stat:

Walla Walla has 4.1 violent crimes per 1,000 people. That leaves it with more violent crime than each one of the Tri-Cities. In fact, there were three murders in Walla Walla last year; more than any other time in the town's history.

You can blame a rise in gang activity for the numbers. As gang members become more brazen, Walla Walla Police have been hit by budget cuts and short staffing.

"We've seen a reduction of officers," says Capt. Tim Bennett, Walla Walla police. "We're having to do more with less people."

The proof is in the numbers. There are currently 1.4 police officers for every 1,000 people in Walla Walla. That's the same as the early 1990s, when there were far fewer people and far less crime.

To keep local streets safe, Walla Walla police have gone after known gang members. Folks like Johnson believe it's the only time many of them will be held accountable.

"(Gang members) don't have the discipline they should have," she tells KEPR. "Parents can't touch them."

The result? 130 violent crimes in a single year and a town fed-up with gang members.