Gang unit keeps violence down this summer

TRI-CITIES, Wash. -- KEPR learned gang violence is down at a time when it normally spikes.

Things are unusually calm in Benton County. It's what tends to happen when an extra pair of eyes keeps watch on your neighborhood.

"I got a gorgeous four-year-old granddaughter. I couldn't handle it if anything happened to her," says Trish Mulholland, a resident of Benton County.

Fortunately, Mulholland can feel more at ease. Every day, officers with the Benton County Gang Unit scan her street looking for gang members.

The extra vigilance has paid off in a very big way. This summer, there hasn't been a single drive-by shooting in all of Benton County.
Compare that to just a few years ago when Benton County averaged three a year.

"It's nice to know you can come out and play with your grand daughter and not worry about being shot," Mulholland says.

The Benton County Gang Unit started two years ago. Since then, hundreds of charges have been brought against known gang members.
The idea is simple. Focus on the smaller crimes -- and bigger things will follow. In this case, gang officers have honed in on graffiti cases -- because tagging incidents often lead to more serious things like drug dealing.

"They get experience with graffiti and move on to bigger crimes," says Sgt. Carlos Trevino, Benton County Gang Unit.

In the past two years, graffiti cases have dropped 60% in Benton County, making our neighborhoods safer as a whole this summer.

Money for the gang unit was budgeted by county commissioners two years ago.

Taxes were not raised to pay for the extra patrols.