WALLA WALLA — Turnout for the inaugural gang call-in was a mixed bag last week, according to Walla Walla Police Chief Scott Bieber, who has spearheaded the gang-reduction strategy.
The event was held at St. Patrick Catholic Church on Dec. 3, and Bieber said attendance from area law enforcement agencies and social service providers was very encouraging.
“It couldn’t have been any better,” Bieber said.
On the other hand, gang members and gang “affected” families largely boycotted the gathering, Bieber said.
“We know this is going to be a long-haul thing,” Bieber said, while admitting even his low turnout expectations were disappointed. “It was a good dress rehearsal.”
Despite the low turnout, Bieber said the call-in went ahead as planned. Law enforcement presented how they will deal with gang activity going forward, while social service providers presented a wide range of options and resources that are available in Walla Walla for people wanting to get out of the gang lifestyle, or avoid it entirely.
Bieber said local agencies are planning another call-in event for February.
“We’re going to take a look at our outreach,” Bieber said, adding the call-in isn’t a “sting” on gang members, and officers won’t be running warrant checks at the event.
Bieber did caution, however, that area law enforcement will take a no-tolerance stance on gang activity when gang crimes are committed, referencing a local drive-by shooting over Thanksgiving weekend.
“If it’s gang-related, we will have a no tolerance policy for the associates of the gang that did that shooting,” Bieber said, stating that officers will enforce any and all violations of the law by known gang members, including minor infractions.
Luke Hegdal can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8326.