Gang Crackdown in Visalia Brings Crime Rate Down

FRESNO, Calif. Visalia gang suppression officers say increased patrols of gang-infested neighborhoods combined with an injunction-- enforced for the last year and a half-- have led to a big drop in gang-related crime.

Gang injunctions-- approved by a judge and served in May 2008-- prohibit certain validated gang members from hanging out together in public within a designated safety zone.

Visalia Police say restricting gang members from being together in public means fewer opportunities to commit crimes.

Compared to 2007, so far in 2009, the city of Visalia has seen three fewer gang-related homicides ... aggravated assaults are down by more than half and drive-by shootings have been reduced by around 70%.

Unfortunately, one of those homicides took place just last week-- when a 16-year old was shot and killed. The three suspects in custody are all believed to be gang members.

Lt. Jason Salazar with the Gang Suppression Unit said, "We're seeing some encouraging declines in gang-related violence in Visalia. We're still a long way from being where we'd like to be and we have a lot of work to do but it's still encouraging news."

Despite the promising numbers, people who live in the North Visalia neighborhood-- which is in the injunction's safety zone --say gangs are still a big presence in the community.

Resident: "As far as crimes being down, no they're not."

A Visalia resident Action News spoke with admits he's seen fewer gang members on the street but says he still hears and even sees shootings in his neighborhood. He says more patrols by officers and quicker response times could help further reduce gang crimes.

Visalia officers hope the declining trend continues in 2010, adding cooperation from local youth community centers is a big help.

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