Amid cuts, Stanislaus homicide rate increases

Patty Guerra (Modesto Bee) | March 19, 2012

In August 2008, Stanislaus County law enforcement noted it had been a year without a gang-related homicide.

That was then; this is now.

So far this year, 11 homicides have been recorded in Stanislaus County. Investigators say more than half of those are gang-related. In all of 2011, 36 people were victims of homicide; authorities determined two of those cases were self-defense.

Sheriff Adam Christianson said he has identified gangs as his highest priority. Come the new fiscal year in July, he hopes to re-form his Special Team Investigating Narcotics and Gangs, which fell victim to budget cuts that dropped the department’s staff by 25 percent.

“Criminals aren’t dumb,” Christianson said. “They know there are fewer cops out there watching them.”

The unit regularly interacted with gang members and those who associate with them. Deputies developed background knowledge on these people that they could use when an incident arose. Now, they find themselves backtracking to get that information.

“We’re now seeing the effects of not having a gang unit,” said sheriff’s Sgt. Anthony Bejaran, who was on the STING team. “Can we say we definitely stopped a homicide (when there was a STING unit)? Not with 100 percent certainty, but based on the number of people arrested and the targeting of known violent offenders, yes.

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Photo credit: Carlos Rodriguez/Central Valley Reports

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