SUNNYSIDE -- In an otherwise tranquil canal bank neighborhood, a house known for drive-by shootings and gang members is empty.
Yellow tape blocks the porch. A "Posted Substandard" notice hangs on the door. Concrete barricades prevent through traffic on the nearby streets.
"They needed to do that years ago," said a woman who lives across the canal from the house where gunfire would so often interrupt her sleep.
A history of problems at 808 W. Edison Ave., including two drive-by shootings last month, have prompted the city of Sunnyside and police to take a particularly aggressive stance toward the property, a single-story home so pocked with bullet holes, detectives struggled to distinguish new from old.
A few months before the shootings, the city and police seized an opportunity to include the house in the already planned annexation of the nearby former Monson feedlot. Previously, the house was in unincorporated Yakima County. Now, it's in city limits, giving police more authority to take action.
"The whole point here is we're done with gangs," said Sunnyside Deputy Police Chief Phil Schenck. "We're going to bring all of our available tools to the table."
Using annexation and road blocks to combat gangs are new, said Mike Painter, director of professional services for the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.
"I have not heard of any city ever doing anything like that," said Painter, former police chief in Kent. "Kudos to them for being creative."
Road barricades have some precedence elsewhere. In 1990, Los Angeles police created dead-end streets for two years in a 10-block area that experienced a rash of gang homicides. The theory was that drive-bys would go down. The so-called "Operation Cul de Sac" worked almost immediately, according to a 1998 U.S. Department of Justice research brief. Homicides in the area went from seven to only one in the two years following, but when police pulled the barricades, homicides returned to previous levels.
Sunnyside's annexation tactic was somewhat opportunistic. In 2007, the city finalized its purchase of the Monson feedlot west of town, extended sewer and water lines to the property and began the process of annexation to market the property for commercial or retail development.
Coincidentally, between the city and the old feedlots sits the house at 808 W. Edison Ave., a historically troublesome property for law enforcement. In the past four years, the Yakima County Sheriff's Office made 10 weapons-related calls, almost all involving gunfire.
Sheriff's deputies tried aggressive techniques, too, Graham said. The county-led Violent Crimes Task Force, which once included a Sunnyside officer, often targeted the house with arrest and search warrants.
Graham had never heard of a city annexing for crime-fighting authority but liked the idea. City officers often are closer to houses right outside their limits than sheriff's deputies and can respond quicker.
"If Sunnyside and Sunnyside PD were seeing a significant amount of crime right around their city limits, then yes, it makes sense for them to annex," Graham said.
In January 2011, the home was the target of one of five shootings overnight in the Lower Valley, all of which detectives speculated were gang retaliations.
The following morning, Roberto Cruz Jr. admitted to the Yakima Herald-Republic he was a gang member and said he hopped into his car to tail a vehicle he suspected was connected to the shooting instead of calling authorities. He denied being involved with any crimes at that time.
He and his family members were unavailable to comment for this story. He lived in the home with his brother. Their father, Robert Cruz Sr., owns the home. The brothers now live with girlfriends in other parts of the city, Schenck said.
To get police authority at the house, Sunnyside officials jogged the line of their annexation proposal to include the property. They did not seek a signature from Cruz Sr., whose portion of the overall annexation proposal would have been too small to stop it, said Jamey Ayling, Sunnyside's planning supervisor. Annexation requires approval from the owners of 60 percent of the overall assessed value.
The city council formally approved the annexation this March.
The city didn't take action at the house right away after the annexation.
Then, on June 17 and June 24, drive-by shootings at the house interrupted the early morning hours. Detectives believe the residents returned fire at the passing cars, Schenck said. Nobody was hurt, but children were inside, police said.
Detectives are still investigating possible charges against the brothers, said Officer TJ Orth, a member of the department's gang unit.
But officers arrested three other men they said are documented gang members for possession of stolen property, withholding knowledge of a violent felony and reckless driving, Orth said. They also wrote a ticket to Cruz Sr. for violating Sunnyside's crime-free rental housing program, which will be prosecuted in municipal court.
During one of their searches after the incident, police brought along code enforcement officers. The inspectors found several structural problems -- broken rafters, sloping floors, cracked ceilings and 21 bullet holes that could affect wiring, Ayling said.
Ayling said the deficiencies were enough to justify a "substandard" declaration, which means the house must be fixed before anyone can live there.