KENNEWICK, Wash.-- It's been one year since the inception of the Benton County Gang Enforcement Team and a recent evaluation shows their work is making a difference.
The Benton County Sheriff's Office Gang Enforcement Team is making an impact and now they have the numbers to show for it.
The Sheriff's Office recently gathered the results of their work from January through July and the statistics show that with the new team they've been able to be proactive rather than reactive.
Benton County Sheriff Steven Keane says the gang enforcement team is using many ways to fix the local gang issue.
"If we're truly looking at trying to reduce the criminal gang problem, you have to look at it from more than one approach. So that's what we've done," says Keane.
The Benton County Gang Enforcement Team is focusing in on prevention, intervention and suppression. They're doing that through education, personally contacting all known gang members and cracking down on illegal activity.
"Everything that we're doing with the misdemeanor arrests, the search warrants, the felony arrests, the weapons, the vehicles that we're seizing and the guns, all those things come into play. We're having a huge impact on the total criminal gang enterprise," says Keane.
This focused approach is paying off. The Gang Enforcement Team has cleared around two hundred arrest warrants in the first seven months of this year, which is what they'd normally do in a whole year.
Benton County Deputy Joe Lusignan says the team's ability to give all their attention to gang work is making all the difference.
"They're not answering barking dogs calls. They're not responding to accidents. They're not actually taking burglaries or thefts or something like that. They're able to focus on this issue and this issue has many facets to it. And they're able to dedicate their time to all of those different facets," says Lusignan.
The enforcement team is stepping up their education outreach work, which they believe is the key to changing the future of gang activity in the community.
"Law enforcement is not going to be able to solve this issue or solve this problem in our community itself. It does take a team effort involving the schools, involving the communities, the businesses and especially the parents," says Lusignan.
From January to July, some of the resulting efforts coming from this focused gang team are 60 felony charges, 156 misdemeanor charges and 123 people incarcerated.
The team has also made 45 home visits and 8 community presentations to discuss gang prevention and intervention.