New gang officer in Hermiston

Gangs have proven to know no boundaries and show no signs of fading away. KEPR has told you about the spike in major crimes in Umatilla County. And now we've learned Police in Hermiston are stepping up to do something about it.

Officers went to city council this week to tell them about a new type of officer coming to town. This detective would focus exclusively on gang intervention. January ninth was the final straw for Hermiston Police.

"One fatal... Involving gunfire," explains the Umatilla D.A.

Gang shootings, thefts and graffiti have become all too common for this small town.

KEPR asked, Would you say major crime is up in Umatilla County?
He replies, "It's our fifth homicide in 11 weeks, so it's hard to dispute that.

Hermiston Police have seen the gang activity increase to a point they never imagined.The acting chief admits more could have been done.

"It's an ugliness on society and we didn't take proactive steps to stay ahead of it," says Jason Edmiston.

In 2011, Hermiston had a big increase in property crimes and car thefts, which are often gang-related. Compared to the year before, there were 111 more crimes like burglaries and thefts in 2011.
Auto thefts rose 121-percent in 2011, going from 29 to 64 stolen cars.

"Our officers are busy," explains Edmiston.

By adding the Gang Intervention Detective, patrol officers will have more time to spend on the streets, and less big-case paperwork. The position would focus solely on gang enforcement and education. The officer will go directly into schools to help stop kids from being recruited to a life of crime. The position is planned to be filled and on the streets by spring.

"Just starting to curb the activity and hold people accountable," says Edmiston.

One officer and one small town to try to curb a big problem.