WALLA WALLA, Wash. - Crimes of all types are going up in Walla Walla. However, gang activity has exponentially increased in the last few years.
Officers responded to less than 200 gang related calls in each of the last three years. But this year, Walla Walla police are on track to handle about 250 of those calls.
Walla Walla police officer Tim Bennett said the most common gang related incidents have to do with graffiti, and the average person does not typically get caught in the crossfire of gang violence.
"A lot of our serious gang crime is gang against gang. Especially after the shooting last year. So, there's still a lot of friction between the gangs," Bennett said.
In a police department that's already stretched... There are two gang detectives and two drug detectives within the special teams unit.
Hardly enough man-power to combat a growing gang community.
"At this time they're just doing the best they can with what they've got. There's no easy solution other than putting more bodies on the road," Bennett said.
Walla Walla City Manager Nabiel Shawa said getting more officers on the streets could be a possibility.
He asked the new Police Chief to create a strategic and cohesive strategy with other law enforcement in the area to stop the growing gang trend.
"That report may come out and say alright, here's the strategy... here's where we have gaps in our resources and we may have to revisit our budget and how we've allocated our resources in order to bolster this strategy going forward. But it is a top priority of this city," Shawa said.
Shawa said the report should be rolled out sometime after the first of the year.
An estimated 500 or more gang members are believed to be active in the Walla Walla Valley area.