YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. — The Yakima County Sheriff’s Office is working on a new approach to reduce crime by creating a ProAct team aimed at addressing minor issues before they turn into major crimes.
“By lowering the crime rate, you get new people to want to move here, business gets better, the tax base grows economically, the entire county is better,” Sheriff Bob Udell said.
Udell said with deputies retiring faster than new hires can be brought in, existing detectives busy investigating major crimes and patrol deputies busy responding to urgent calls, there’s not always time for someone to follow up on non-urgent tips.
“When we know there’s a drug house, neighbors call us all the time and say, hey, we know what’s happening here. Okay, well, we’ll try to get a deputy over there,” Udell said. “Often, we can’t get to it. We don’t have the resources.”
However, he said county commissioners have agreed to provide them with $3 million to $4 million dollars of American Rescue Plan Act funding to fund six new positions at the sheriff’s office, all aimed at reducing crime by being proactive instead of reactive.
One of those positions is for a traffic detective to be able to handle major traffic-related investigations across Yakima County, freeing patrol deputies up to do more traffic enforcement, with the hope of preventing serious collisions.
“The other guys and gals can then get back on the road and make sure that they’re out there enforcing the laws, stop signs, speed … the things that cause serious injuries and deaths in our county, because 25 deaths in less than a year in our county is too many,” Udell said.
Udell said the other five deputies will make up the ProAct team and will not be tasked with responding to everyday calls.
“Instead, their task is lowering the everyday calls by going after the problem areas and the problem people,” Udell said.
However, Udell said they need more people to be able to make that happen. Between the new positions, existing job vacancies and upcoming retirements, they’re looking at hiring 10 to 15 deputies in 2023 — plus more support staff.
“What we’re looking for is members of our community to come join our team,” Udell said. “It’s a big deal and that’s important. That makes us more effective too, when we have people who have lived here and want to give to their community by joining the sheriff’s office.”
Udell said it will likely be about a year before the ProAct team is in place, but he’s excited to move forward.
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