WALLA WALLA: more property crimes, less violence

WALLA WALLA - It's a small town with a growing gang problem. Action News has documented the efforts to crack down on gangs in Walla Walla. It seems the problem is getting worse.

Walla Walla would rather be known for its wine than its gangs.

Amy Davis-Bruner has lived in Walla Walla for a handful of years. She says the growing gang activity nearby hasn't surprised her.

"I think there is gang activity in urban settings, rural settings," said Walla Walla resident Amy Davis-Bruner.

She's seen more taggings near her home. Amy hopes for a solution.

"If we have gang activity going up in a community, that's a community issue," added Davis-Bruner.

It's why Amy was interested to know the number of gang crimes is going up. Walla Walla noted a 15% increase in gang-related incidents for the first part of this year. That's compared to the same time last year.

We learned the higher numbers this year are partly due to two separate incidents in January. However, it reflects a larger trend. Since 2009, gang-related incidents have gone up by 90% for stats recorded the entire calendar year.

Police say the numbers aren't as startling as they seem.

Reporter: "What do most of these numbers actually represent?"
Walla Walla Police Officer Tim Bennett: "The vast majority of this increase is due to increased incidents of graffiti."

Officers tell us they don't take property crimes lightly.

"No gang-related crime is too small for the guys to take on, because we don't want it to get out of control like it has been in the past," said Officer Bennett.

They add that increases in graffiti often lead to more violent crimes. It's why police are working to crack down by making key arrests.

"Trying to stop it at that level before they start shooting, robbing, or other gang-associated crimes," said Officer Bennett.

It's an effort to keep this peaceful community peaceful.
We also learned Walla Walla Police got a grant for a glass-blaster. They tell us it's a more environmentally-friendly tool for removing graffiti, which is often caused by gangs.