YAKIMA, Wash. — There were no homicides in Yakima County in January, a first since 2012.
January hasn’t always been the busiest month for homicides, but in recent years the month has proved violent.
In January 2016, there were four homicides countywide. There were three in January 2017 and one last January.
The relative calm this year could change at any time given the dynamics of the area, where a proliferation of drugs, gangs and domestic violence can result in murder.
Interim Yakima police Chief Gary Jones said a slow start to homicides doesn’t mean there will be fewer this year.
Last year’s single homicide in January, which occurred outside the city, didn’t signal what was to come later — 38 homicides countywide by year’s end.
“That’s always the hope, but the reality is there (are) always things that law enforcement isn’t made aware of,” he said. “Homicide prevention is difficult.”
A lack of homicides in January doesn’t mean all was quiet. There were several shootings, including one on Jan. 20 in the 1800 block of South 12th Avenue that left a 43-year-old man paralyzed. A bullet struck him in the neck and damaged a vertebra, Jones said.
“That could have just as easily been a homicide,” he said.
But efforts are in the works to curb violent crime, including murder, in the city.
Jones said a new shift structure assigning officers to specific beats should make a difference.
That will allow officers to form better relations with neighbors, gain insight and learn about the circumstances surrounding homicides and other crime, Jones said.
Public forums about policing efforts will continue to be held in neighborhoods as part of efforts to improve community relations, he said.
“It’s not just about community groups. What we’re trying to do is get the community to help us with suspicious homes, activity,” Jones said. “We want the community to have a viable way to report that anonymously.”
Yakima also has been selected by the Eastern District of the U.S. Attorney’s Office to participate in Project Safe Neighborhoods, a federal program that provides local law enforcement with additional criminal databases and criminal tracking tools.
“Offenders move from jurisdiction to jurisdiction; they’re not just sitting around in one place,” Jones said.