May 3, 2011 1 Comment
The Sunnyside City Council held a workshop meeting Monday night which included an update on the Yakima County Detention Facility, and a presentation from Sunnyside Police on their Gang Elimination Plan.
All members of the council were present, with the exception of Pablo Garcia, who begged off due to a work conflict. Council Members voted to excuse the absence. Theresa Hancock asked if it was required for Council Members to attend workshops. Mayor Restucci informed her that Council Members are required to attend ALL meetings.
County Commissioner Kevin Bouchey, who is also Chairman of the county’s gang commission, addressed the City Council and informed them that the county would continue to cut bed space for juvenile defenders unless municipalities like Sunnyside dramatically increase funding for them. Bouchey said that the county currently spends 82% of its budget on law, justice, and public safety issues, but it is still not enough to provide jail space for juveniles.
Municipalities like Sunnyside rely on the county to house juvenile offenders because it falls under the auspices of Yakima County Superior Court. Under the proposed plan, the county would commit to keeping at least 42 beds for juveniles, and use additional funds from municipalities to pay for some additional beds.
Deputy Mayor Paulakis asked if parents of juveniles could shoulder some of the cost of keeping their kids in jail. He was told that in Yakima County the sliding fee scale that is charged to parents does not collect very much, if at all, in most circumstances.
Council Member Vlieger noted that in 1995 the county had twice as many juvenile beds, despite not having revenue from the 3/10 sales tax for law and justice. ”What happened?”, asked Vlieger. Bouchey said expenses have outpaced revenue.
Mayor Restucci noted that even if Sunnyside joins the plan as proposed, the city would still not have any dedicated juvenile bed-space, but would be sharing with everyone in the county.
Council consensus is to bring the matter back for further discussion at another workshop, with greater detail from the county on how funds are being spent, and how a new “gang court” for juveniles will impact the detention center.
A large portion of the meeting was spent as Deputy Police Chief Schenck and Officer Chumley reviewed their strategy for making Sunnyside the safest community in the state of Washington.
Schenck said that we need to break with some of the ideas that have been tried in the past because they are not working. He said that the police can not be everything for everybody, and that they need to focus on what they do best: suppression. Schenck said it is critical to work with other agencies like CPS, the hospital, and Sunnyside’s Promise, as they are needed to solve the problem. However, he said, the role of the police should be on stopping gangs.
“If we don’t stop gangs, we will not see businesses take off, or new industries come to Sunnyside. That is not acceptable; we want opportunities for our kids,” said Schenck.
The presentation was patterned in some respects after military doctrine for fighting terrorism, with counter-insurgency strategies being employed. Schenck is a former U.S. Army officer, and has a lengthy career in law enforcement. The call for “total warfare” against gangs was made, with a community-wide effort required to make it successful.
Schenck cautioned that trying to implement everything in the plan immediately would not effective, as additional resources and staffing are needed for some of the component pieces. For example, the Sunnyside Police have not yet hired a crime analyst that will help them target patrols to problem areas, while maintaining general security for the rest of the city.
Officer Chumley spoke of Winston Churchill calling for eliminating every means of support for the enemy in World War II. He said the same needs to be done in the fight against gangs. Chumley also noted that Sunnyside is not the first to compare gangs to terrorists. He said the state of California labelled them as domestic terrorists in legislation passed in the 1980′s.
Schenck and Chumley both said that the community feels terrorized, and cited increasing numbers of applications for concealed weapons permits to back it up.
Schenck said that prevention and intervention efforts are useful and needed in the community, but can only be effective if we have suppression that works. He added, “The suppression side is the most cost effective thing that is needed right now.”
The council decided to consider a resolution of support for the plan at a future meeting.
- Additional Information:
- Gunman Killed As Police Dispense A Pound Of Cure (blogsunnyside.com)
- Sunnyside police shoot, kill gunman (seattletimes.nwsource.com)