Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

KUOW is in the middle of a week-long series on gang violence. The series includes sobering statistics. Austin Jenkins reports the numbers from Grant County: 

According to the Sheriff's office, there are more than 400 known gang members in this sprawling, rural county of just 85,000 people. Last year, there were three gang-related homicides, 66 times when someone brandished or fired a gun and 337 reports of gang tagging.

Austin also recounts some of the frightening incidents that have become all too familiar:

Grant County Deputy Joe Harris is the one who compiles these stats. He can also tell you the stories behind the numbers like the time he responded to a call of a 10-year-old boy wounded in a drive-by shooting.

Joe Harris: "He's just laying there in his bed and he gets woken up by a gunshot, a bullet that went through his head."

He survived. Police believe the boy's older brother was the intended target.

Today, KUOW's Anna King reports on "drive-by shootings in a dairy town." She's talking about Outlook, Washington:

"Younger kids, I just wish that they could ride their bikes like nothing you know. As a mom I wouldn't let my kids out in the streets riding a bike or even go play with the neighbors. You don't know if there is going to be a drive-by shooting."

That's right, drive-by shootings in a dairy town. Maria's 36, and a mother of three. And Maria isn't really her name, but she's too scared of the gangs here to use her real one on the radio.

Just in 2010 there were 29 homicides in Yakima County. In Outlook alone, there were four armed assaults against people and about 50 cases of people using their weapons illegally against houses, dogs and even a horse.

In 2009, someone ambushed and shot a Yakima County Sherriff's deputy. It happened not far from where Maria is taking a community survey.

Maria: "Do you feel safe in your home?"

Outlook Man: "A lot of times I don't."

Maria: "Do you feel safe that when you leave town that your house is going to be safe?"

Outlook Man: "No."

Maria: "Do you feel safe walking in the streets?"

Outlook Man: "No, that's why I don't."

Maria: "In the day and in the night?"

Outlook Man: "Same deal. You never know."

Helping people feel safe to walk in their own neighborhoods is why we've proposed legislation to reduce gang violence. Track the bill on the AGO Legislative Page.

Want to hear more of KUOW's series on gangs? A longer-form discussion aired on KUOW's "The Conversation" and the series continues on Wednesday.

-Dan Sytman-