EARLIMART, Calif. (KFSN) --Just hours after the Tulare County Sheriff's Office announced a civil gang injunction to fight gang violence in the town of Earlimart, two people were hurt in a gang-related shooting near an elementary school.
Manuel Valenzuela has seen gang violence escalate in recent years-- he's lived in Earlimart for more than six decades. "I am concerned and I'm glad that the sheriff--it's about time they've done something about it," Valenzuela said.
Sgt. Manuel Cavazos is the county's south end gang supervisor and says the injunction in Earlimart has worked so far. He says gang crime has decreased in the last month. "It's been pretty effective, usually the gang members once we start serving them, they tend to kind of not stay around for too long," Cavazos said.
The injunction allows deputies to arrest served Norteno gang members for a number of reasons. It limits where they can go, what they can do, and who they can hang out with. Since the injunction was announced, two men in their early 20's have been arrested for congregating with other gang members. "It also allowed us to serve the other members, the gang members they were with who had not previously been served with injunctions we were able to serve those individuals as well," Cavazos said.
Sgt. Cavazos says it's a tool to prevent gang activity and violence, but acknowledges that they still have to serve many more gang members on their list. The list has about 100 names and so far, they've served about half of those people, while the others are hiding. Valenzuela says the streets are safer now, but it will take members of this close-knit community to keep it that way. "Because we all live here, we see each other like family, like a family," Valenzuela said. "Because it's a small little town. Everybody knows everybody in Earlimart."
Right now in Earlimart, gang graffiti may be visible from an elementary school. But everyday people here hope to someday take back their streets and watch the gangs, and their signs, fade away.