DOC partners in Yakima's war on gangs - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

DOC partners in Yakima's war on gangs

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YAKIMA, Wash- Washington lawmakers are on day two of the special session debating where to cut.  One worst-cast scenario could completely eliminate the Department of Corrections Community Corrections Division.

Yakima police gang patrols are a familiar sight around town. But what you probably didn't know is that many times, the officer in the passenger seat is part of the Department of Correction's community corrections team... a parole officer.

Officer Chris Perez with the department of corrections supervises over 30 gang offenders all of whom were convicted of violent felonies, often with a weapon.

"Even though they've gone to prison once, maybe twice they're not ready to give that lifestyle up, so the minute they get out they're right back with their friends", says Perez.

Probation violations for gang parolees don't have to be as serious as a weapons charge.  They can be simple as associating with known gang members, or wearing gang attire. That's where having a doc officer who can issue arrest warrants on the spot comes in handy for YPD.

"We're able to stop a crime before it happens", says Yakima Police officer Chris Taylor.

The Yakima City Council is currently fighting to keep six city police officers from budget cuts for fear of worsening the "gang problem".

"Cutting parolee supervision, that was the only way we could meet a 10% cut", says Community Corrections Field Administrator Ron Pederson.

But eliminating community corrections officers could be an equally devastating blow to public safety.

"It would be a loss of law enforcement capability, using them for access into the house of a DOC offender", says Taylor.

Officer Taylor says that besides more boots on the ground, one of the most valuable things community corrections officers give YPD is information.

Both gang officers agree that preventing crime isn't an exact science.

"But taking a violent gang member off the street and putting him in jail for parole violations, that's a good start", says Perez.