Yakima police chief says immigration status not looked at
After a disturbingly record-setting homicide year for Yakima County — with 16 murders in Yakima itself and another 16 throughout the county in 2018 — the Yakima Police Department is trying to find a pattern.
“If we could just relate it to one violent offender type, that may help some of our analysis, and even enforcement,” Yakima Interim Police Chief Gary Jones told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson. “But in this case, we’ve had quite a bit of division of different types of homicides, making it a little bit more problematic.”
According to The Seattle Times, the number of murders in Yakima County last year was the highest in nearly four decades. About 70 percent of the homicides have been solved.
Knowing that Yakima is somewhat infamous among Washingtonians as having issues with gangs and crime, Dori asked if the uptick in homicides had anything to do with the gang wars and drug trade on the streets.
“It’s reasonable to believe that gang members are involved in the drug trade, but not all drug trade people are gang members,” Jones said. “So they can be exclusive of each other.”
Two of the 2018 homicides, he said, had to do with a drug transaction, but did not seem to be connected with gang activity.
“There is a gang presence here that we’ve been working on a number of years, but we have not found the aptitude of gang violence that we would expect in these homicide numbers,” Jones said.
Dori then asked if the police department has any statistics on the number of illegal immigrants living in the county, or the number of crimes committed by any illegal immigrants.
“That’s one of the things that, as a department, we do not track,” Jones replied. “As part of our philosophy, we treat all community members the same.”
The knowledge of a person’s immigration status is more important for policymakers than law enforcement, Jones said, as it should not affect how police protect residents and find criminals.
“Knowing if they were documented or not does not change my enforcement effort … I’m bound by the Constitution and my oath that I protect and serve all,” he said.
He also explained that many residents have a fear of police if they are undocumented, and therefore may not be willing to speak to law enforcement and give vital information that helps solve crimes.
“I need to be able to solicit information from all walks of the community, and if they have a fear of law enforcement because we are going to do some sort of immigration check on them … We don’t want to put a cooling effect on people who may already be somewhat mistrustful of law enforcement anyway,” he said.
- Tune in to KIRO Radio weekdays at 12 noon for The Dori Monson Show.