Salinas gang violence taxes police

JULIA REYNOLDS and DANIEL LOPEZ (Monterey County Herald)

In a department already challenged by budget-driven staff cuts, Salinas police continue to battle a wave of gang violence that has left four people dead since Wednesday.

But despite their best efforts, the flare-up of violence persisted Sunday with five more shootings in less than 24 hours.

During the weekend, police made 10 arrests on a variety of offenses, Police Chief Louis Fetherolf said Monday. More than 100 parole searches and other types of police “contacts” took place, he said, many targeting specific gangs believed to have been involved in much of last month’s violence.

Fetherolf acknowledged that working with a police gang unit that has been cut in half is far from ideal, and said the back-to-back slayings are taxing the department.

“This is what we’re working with,” he said, referring to budget cuts that halved the Violence Suppression Unit’s staff.

Although the unit focuses on carrying out police suppression actions once violence occurs, it is the closest the department has to a gang intelligence arm, and its members tend to have more in-depth knowledge of local gang factions. Ten positions in the unit were eliminated July 1.

Mayor Dennis Donohue acknowledged Monday that the cuts have put “limitations” on the department.

“Frankly, they matter,” he said.

When the third shooting in less than four hours took place late Friday, police resources were visibly stretched, with only a few officers able to respond to the scene, and even fewer detectives.

Exhausted officers worked through the weekend, Fetherolf said, as the California Highway Patrol and the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office helped police conduct “saturation patrols.”

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