Palo Alto Weekly

News - January 15, 2010

2010 crackdown on East Palo Alto gangs planned

Police to form new gang-crime unit

by Sue Dremann

East Palo Alto police will beef up their hard-core attack on gangs in 2010, Police Chief Ron Davis said on Wednesday.

Using the same strategy that successfully dismantled the city's notorious "Taliban" gang in March 2009 and led to 42 arrests, the department will collaborate with county, state and federal agencies for in-depth investigation and arrest of individual gang members, he said.

A new gang-crime unit is being formed and will work with San Mateo County's gang-intelligence unit, according to Capt. Carl Estelle, the East Palo Alto department's spokesman.

Davis said the strategy is based on "Operation Ceasefire," a gang-fighting program that originated through the Boston Gun Project and is used in Chicago, Ill.; Stockton, Calif.; and other cities plagued by gang violence.

The department is using sophisticated techniques to predict why crime is happening and when and where it is likely to occur, he said.

"We use intelligence and crime analysis to understand and identify individuals and go after guns — sales, purchases and possession," Davis said.

The department is now staffed 95 percent and has "two more in the hopper," Davis said.

Officers will go after open-air drug markets and a disturbing trend of robberies by gang members on Latino males on payday, he said.

During the last quarter of 2009, police redoubled their efforts to keep retaliatory shootings down after a spate of shootings in July.

In an effort dubbed "Operation 4th Quarter," police knocked on doors of known gang members and informed them that they were aware of their activities. Officers used one-on-one intervention, bringing in community and faith leaders, and offering alternatives, such as mentoring, education and job counseling. Individuals were warned they were being investigated and could face long prison terms, Davis said.

A police report indicated a 59 percent drop in firearm assaults from Sept. 1 through Dec. 21, as compared to 2008. From Oct. 1 through Dec. 21, homicides dropped 50 percent compared to the same period in 2008.

The department's Police Activities League program just received a $200,000 grant for additional programs to help keep youth engaged and out of trouble and a youth summit is planned in 2010, he said.

Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be e-mailed at sdremann@paweekly.com.

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