Sheriff Keane Says Gang Task Force Makes a Dent

<p>Sheriff Steve Keane</p>

Sheriff Steve Keane

The Benton County Sheriff says his gang unit is putting gang members behind bars and making a huge impact on the overall problem.

Sheriff Steve Keane credits his department's pro-active approach, and lessons learned from gang problems in Yakima County and other communities.

His office released a comprehensive report today-- about progress the unit has made fighting gangs in 2012.

According to the report, the five-member gang task force helped jail 191 people with gang ties and reduce gang-related grafitti by 58 percent.

In busts over the year, the unit seized more than three dozen weapons, along with several vehicles and nearly 10 thousand dollars in cash.

But Keane says it's not just about enforcement, but about gang prevention -- he says it's important to go into schools, talk to teachers and parents... As well as the kids.

He says it's also about learning what not to do when dealing with the gang problem, and they learned that from other communities such as Yakima.

"What it's costing them to deal with the problem - from gunshot wounds in the hospital, to incarceration, to prosecution, all those things - and it's a huge huge expense on a community, and we just learned from the mistakes that they made," says Keane.

The gang unit costs taxpayers about $750, 000 for last year, but Keane says it's a fraction of what it could cost if nothing was in place.

The sheriff says the unit has met with almost every known gang member in the area and informed them the county will take a zero tolerance approach to gang crime.

But it's not all bad news. Deputies let people know the sheriff's office will do whatever it can to help them get out of gangs.

The sheriff's office is also working with other agencies and counties to help alleviate gang-related crime in this area.