Deadly Gang Violence Has Salinas Residents On Edge

Posted: 2:44 pm PDT March 9, 2009
Updated: 10:52 am PDT March 10, 2009
KTVU.com

SALINAS, Calif. — It is another tense night for law enforcement and the people of Salinas — a 16-year old boy has just been shot to death in what police call a gang-related killing.

On one night, a special Monterey County gang task force says revenge is in the air. Gang task force Sgt. Sheldon Bryan has received word that a group of individuals are looking for retaliation from a shooting that happen the night before.

It might surprise some that Salinas, with a population of only 150,000, needs an intelligence network to battle gangs.

But in just the past year Salinas homicide rate has almost doubled and now far exceeds San Francisco’s, San Jose’s, even the homicide rate in Los Angeles. In the last year, 30 or the last 31 homicides were gang-related.

The central coast farming town famous as the salad bowl of America is now infamous for gang wars that are deeply-rooted, violent, and technologically sophisticated.

Brian Contreras, executive director of Second Chance, grew up in Salinas and can vouch for his hometown being a battleground for gang activity. Contreras says they are experiencing a jump in gang-related violence that rivals bigger cities like San Jose and San Francisco. Contreras believes gangs are vying to control the illicit drug trade and prostitution.

The size and threat of gangs in Salinas has almost tripled over the last few years. And the internet has created a new breed of gangs.

It’s call cyber-banging. Gangs now use social networking sites to recruit, communicate, and post threats.

For Salinas officials, the trend brought to mind how terrorist organizations developed and triggered the idea of bringing in terrorism experts from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey.

Salinas Mayor Dennis Donohue was fascinated with how the military methodically figured where Sadam Hussein was by using statistical analysis. He wondered if the same approach in terms of predictability could be used on gangs.

Salinas police Commander Kelly McMillan agrees and said a lot of insurgent groups the military deals with in Iraq and Afghanistan are very much structured like a street gang in Salinas.

The gang task force welcomes the analysis and recommendations from the Naval Postgraduate school. Especially now when the gang task force fears it may lose its funding in July.

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