In neighborhoods of rural Sunnyside, Wa., graffiti, fights, vandalism, and theft are commonplace, the Los Angeles Times reports. Two teenagers were wounded in a gang shooting this summer, and a 26-year-old woman died in a domestic incident involving gang members. An upswing in gang activity throughout rural Yakima Valley — and what small towns see as the state’s failure to enact laws to combat it — has led to a flurry of action at the city government level.
Sunnyside, population 14,000, passed an ordinance in May that made gang membership a crime and established civil penalties for the parents of juveniles involved in gang crime. Gang activity peaked in Yakima Valley in the early 1990s. Get-tough programs instituted by law enforcement produced a period of declining membership, but recently, drive-by shootings, drug crimes and tagging have increased dramatically. Gang activity moves in cycles, upswings followed by downturns, says the Justice Department’s National Youth Gang Center. An investigator at the Oregon Department of Corrections believes there is a current surge in gang crime in Washington and Oregon.