Yakima, WA - Yakima has long been known for its reputation of having violent crime. While violent crime in Yakima has been trending downward for five years, the overall statistics show Yakima still has well above average crime rates than the rest of the nation.

That's why the Yakima Police Department decided to host a book club to prompt discussions with community members about how violent crime can be reduced. 

In 2017 our violent crime rate per 10,000 people was at 63.21 while the national average was at 10.07. In 2018 Yakima was at 45.96 and the nation at 11.20. In 2019 Yakima was a 45.0 and the nation at 13.17.

Chief Matthew Murray from the Yakima Police Department (YPD) said violent crime is an issue that needs to be dealt with.

"It's a big issue and it has been for a long time and we really are struggling as a community but also in law enforcement on how to deal with this and how to do better," Murray said.

From 2017 to 2019 Yakima experienced the highest rates of homicide and aggravated assault compared to five cities of similar sizes including Auburn, Bellingham, Federal Way, Kirkland and Renton.

In 2017 the homicide rate was 1.38 per 10,000 people, in 2018 it was 1.69 and in 2019 it was 0.95.

The aggravated assault rates were even higher. In 2017 the rate was 38.12 per 10,000 people, in 2018 25.31 and in 2019 it was 29.54. 

Rapes and robberies were also high. The reported rape rates were 7.73 per 10,000 in 2017, 5.93 in 2018 and 4.76 in 2019. The robbery rates were 15.99 per 10,000 in 2017, 13.02 in 2018 and 9.74 in 2019.

Chief Murray said he hopes a book club like this one will help prompt difficult conversations with community members that need to be had about how we can reduce violent crime in Yakima. Yakima County Sheriff Bob Udell agreed.

"A book like this is gonna stimulate questions not just for us but for the community and I think the big deal is how to we work better together," Udell said.

The YPD's book club page will go live on Facebook this Friday June 11, but community members will have until July 31 to read the book. After that YPD will begin asking questions and holding discussions.

"My plea to the community is if you're interested in this issue and violent crime in Yakima, if you've had enough, if you think that we can do better and we can do it as a community," Murray said. "You want to make a difference in reducing violent crime? Then I would urge you to get this book 'Don't Shoot' and join the community discussion because we really do want to hear from you."

The library is buying several books so community members can check them out. They are in the process of ordering those books now.

Several other agencies will also be a part of the book club to help answer questions including the Yakima County Sheriff, the FBI, the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Yakima County Prosecutor.

When it comes to answering difficult questions from community members, Chief Murray said they want to give the community honest answers.