How Many Police Officers Are On Patrol?
Police are among the first people you hope will be there when you need them. A question that often arises is: do we have enough of them? Our news partner KIMA ACTION NEWS examined the numbers to see which cities here in the Yakima Valley have the most officers on the street. Selah is home to dozens of mom-and-pop shops, about 7,000 people, and 14 police officers. It's what makes people like Marion Barton feel safe.
"I think the more we have, the better, lower our crime rate would be," said Barton.
Selah Police are above the average with 1.92 officers per 1000 people
It's a much different scene in Yakima. We learned the Yakima Police Department responded to more than 24-thousand calls since the beginning of this year. Those calls were handled by the city's 145 officers. That's only about one and a half officers per 1000 people. With the average in our region at 1.8, Yakima Police Department would need to hire 19 more officers to get to that average.
"There are a lot of things we could do (with 19 more officers)," said Captain Light. "We could get more creative in our proactive policing. I'm sure we would look at assigning a large number to our gang unit."
Captain Light says reaching the average is nearly impossible because there is no money. But other cities across the valley found ways to make it happen. Some point to stronger budgets, while others get more support from outside agencies.
Both Toppenish and Selah are above the western average. Sunnyside has more than 2 officers per 1000 people. Wapato has nearly 2 .5. With 2.59 officers per 1000 people, Union Gap leads the pack.
Union Gap's population is only about 6000 people, but with all the traffic brought in by the Valley Mall, that number grows to about 45,000. With that large number of daily visitors comes more crime. It's why Union Gap gets more than double the number of calls to police compared to cities with a similar population.
But numbers aside, people we talked to say more officers on the streets means more peace of mind.
The Yakima Police Department is still waiting to fill three new positions on the force. There are also some positions to fill for officers who retire or resign.