Y-S gang population rising
Yuba-Sutter law enforcement agencies are pursuing a zero-tolerance effort against youth gangs, officials say.
“Gangs can't survive in communities with a firmly committed zero-tolerance to their unlawful and intimidating behavior and culture,” said Yuba City Police Chief Richard Doscher.
The agencies held a press conference Thursday at Yuba City City Hall to offer up the numbers to prove it.
The press event comes as news stories show the dark side of Yuba-Sutter's gang problem - a wave of drive-by shootings that has left people dead and injured, and houses riddled with bullets.
“We wanted to share the other side of the story on what law enforcement agencies are doing to combat that,” said Doscher. “I think they'd be surprised at the amount of activity going on.”
One group of people who probably wouldn't be surprised are gang members, who have seen police knocking on their door more often since a regional anti-gang unit was formed in October 2005.
The Yuba-Sutter Anti-Gang Enforcement Project has arrested 144 people. Gang suppression units with the Yuba City Police Department, Sutter County Sheriff's Department and the Yuba-Sutter office of the California Highway Patrol arrested 147 more.
Twice monthly, the Yuba-Sutter anti-gang unit goes out on area sweeps. About 40 officers target parole violators and gang members who have arrest warrants. The unit works closely with state parole and local probation officers.
Besides taking suspects into custody, the unit also confirms the existence of gang members - a process known as validation. Two or more gang activities, such as the use of hand signs or tattoos, are needed to confirm gang affiliation. So far, it has validated 192 gang members and conducted 510 searches.
The gang unit, modeled after a similar effort in Shasta County, came about after troubling signs of gang problems here.
Sutter County Sheriff Jim Denney said one of his deputies stopped a car in Live Oak on a rainy night. Inside were three known adult gang members, all with warrants. A fourth person, a minor, was sitting on all the guns.
Doscher said the unit is helping to improve the situation, though it's anyone's guess when the drive-by shootings will end.
“I know what we're doing has an impact in making the community safer,” said Doscher.
He noted that 10 validated gang members have moved to other areas.
“This is too much heat for some of these folks,” said Doscher.
Police are also starting to see more involvement from the community - key in providing the eyes and ears to fight crime.
But the gang problem is a moving target that is growing along with the area's rapidly increasing population.
With growth in the Northern California prison population - and parolees - there are a lot more validated gang members moving into Yuba-Sutter, said Ron Breeden, unit supervisor for the Marysville state parole unit.
“There's going to be more people moving into the area and probably more gang members,” said Breeden.
Appeal-Democrat reporter John Dickey can be reached at 749-4711. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.