The newly formed Street Crimes Unit and the addition of four more officers helped reduce crime in Pasco in 2013, said Police Chief Bob Metzger.
Pasco saw a 6 percent drop in the overall crime rate last year and a 15 percent reduction in violent crimes, according to annual statistics released by the city. Violent crimes include homicides, rapes, robberies and assaults.
Last year was the first year the Street Crimes Unit was in full operation. The unit was created after Franklin County voters passed a public safety sales tax in 2011.
And four more officers were added to replace those assigned to the new unit.
"We really had a good presence in the community, and I think that makes a difference," Metzger said. "Any kind of drop is good and that's what is important here. We had a drop and have had a consistent drop over the last 25 years."
The special unit has a sergeant and three officers who focus mainly on gang-related issues. About 80 percent of the unit's cases involved gang issues.
While there is a large emphasis on gangs, the unit also tracks down wanted suspects, conducts extensive surveillance and investigates street crimes.
Kennewick and Richland police departments have similar units.
Metzger said the unit's ability to keep tabs on and arrest suspects with felony warrants contributed to having 27 fewer violent crimes in 2013 than the year before.
"We wanted to make sure we keep those people who have a propensity to do those (violent) things locked up and off the street," he said.
The total major crimes reported dropped from 1,889 in 2012 to 1,779 last year, the police department reported.
Rape was the only violent crime that saw an increase from 15 in 2012 to 21 cases last year.
No one was murdered in Pasco in 2013, though Juana Figueroa-Figueroa, 65, was killed in a hit-and-run near 20th Avenue and Lewis Street. Police are not investigating the incident as a homicide. No one has been arrested in her death.
So far this year, there's been one homicide in Pasco. Tamie Alane Clark-Acevedo, 46, was found beaten and cut inside a Pasco apartment in early January. Guadalupe Montejano, 48, has pleaded innocent to first-degree murder in her death.
Assaults, robberies and auto thefts were all down by more than 20 percent, the city said. There were 47 fewer auto thefts reported in 2013 and 30 fewer assaults.
Burglaries also dropped by 13 percent from 434 reported in 2012 compared with 377 last year.
While Metzger was pleased with the drop in crime, the department will continue to be proactive on the streets and aggressive toward curbing gang violence, he said.
There have been two recent shootings in Pasco that police say were gang-related. Three men have been wounded and last Sunday officers found dozens of shell casings in the streets.
"The main thing is to stay agile," Metzger said. "We realize this was a good year, but we can't sit back and say everything is finished. We have to remain vigil."
-- Tyler Richardson: 582-1556; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @Ty_richardson