WW detective urges awareness of gang activity

With the hot weather comes the usual uptick in activity, including gang fights and a stabbing.

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WALLA WALLA -- City police Detective Saul Reyna said hot summer weather typically prompts an increase in gang activity, a claim bolstered by recent reports of gang fights and the July 11 stabbing of a man who was spray painting over gang graffiti.

"We've had some serious assaults that we're working on," Reyna said, adding that gang violence is usually confined to other gang members, especially rival gangs. "Most of the violence is gang-on-gang."

Reyna also said that while the gang culture is violent, and many young gang members are carrying weapons these days, the number of members is a small percentage of the total population.

"There's about 300 to 500 in the Valley," Reyna said.

Community and neighborhood watch programs are good ways to help combat gang activity, as well as just getting to know your neighbors, according to Reyna.

Reyna said knowing the community and neighbors' schedules will help people identify suspicious activity.

"We find quite often people don't know their neighbors," Reyna said. "We need to get away from that mentality."

Reyna added that it is also important for people to report suspicious activity to the police quickly and accurately.

"We would rather go and find nothing," Reyna said, adding that sometimes reports are exaggerated in an effort to prompt a faster response from police.

"It may not be intentional," Reyna said. "What you hear on the scanner and what you find out are sometimes totally different things."

Reyna also said that sometimes potential trouble is prevented when police arrive at the scene, and police can gather information about gangs and identify members even when no crime is being committed.

A gang fight at Wildwood Park fizzled Tuesday night, for example, but police arrested William L. Gilbert, 18, at the scene on a felony Walla Walla County Sheriff's Office warrant.

Luke Hegdal can be reached at lukehegdal@wwub.com or 526-8326.

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