Officers told the City Council recently it could make a difference by working with schools and parents to prevent youths from becoming gang members in the first place.

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YAKIMA — Yakima police told City Council members Friday there was little they could do in the short term to help officers curb recent gang violence and solve a spate of related homicides.

Police officers invited to the meeting — hastily called earlier in the week to address public-safety issues — thanked the council for eliminating caps on overtime spending and said solving the homicides was a matter of time.

But where the council could make a difference was in looking toward the future and working with schools and parents to prevent youths from becoming gang members. Stopping gangs through intervention efforts wasn’t best addressed by law enforcement, said Yakima police Capt. Jay Seely.

“The Police Department is kind of a fail-safe. If everything else in the community hasn’t interceded in that child’s life, it’s up to us to pick up the pieces,” Seely said during the 1½-hour meeting mostly attended by city officials. “We’re probably not the best place, as an agency, to deal with gang intervention.”

Police Chief Dominic Rizzi Jr. was at a Federal Bureau of Investigation training and was unable to attend.

Councilwoman Carmen Mendez said she would like to see the city work with local school districts to learn what can be done in the future to catch children at vulnerable ages — fourth, fifth and sixth grades — all the way to graduation and keep them out of gangs.

Seely and Capt. Jeff Schneider also responded to council members’ questions about resident comments posted to Facebook and left on Yakima Herald-Republic online stories about the homicides and violence.

In citing one of the comments, Mayor Kathy Coffey asked why the National Guard wasn’t being used to help officers, as it was decades ago when there was a surge of violence by drug dealers and gangs.

Seely and Schneider said the National Guard likely wouldn’t be able to help with extra patrols or investigating homicides. According to state law, the military — which includes the National Guard — can’t do police work. When the National Guard was called back in the 1980s, members mostly sat in the office and helped with paperwork, Schneider said.

Similarly, the Washington State Patrol hasn’t been called because the agency acts more like a highway patrol and troopers simply aren’t trained in how to handle the calls, such as domestic violence, that take up most police officers’ time.

More helpful, the officers said, would be information from the public — no matter how small or inconsequential a tip might be. Anonymous tips are good, but information from residents willing give their names is better because it offers more credible evidence to support an arrest.

“None of these homicides are where there aren’t people in the community who know what happened,” Seely said.

Coffey also told council members there would be little or no state or federal assistance to offset costs for increased police patrols and other expenses associated with recent violence.