Visalia PD Fights Disturbing Murder and Violence Trend

FRESNO, Calif. Candles, flowers and pictures still cover the sidewalk on North Giddings Avenue ... just five days after 26-year-old /*Diego Lupercio*/ was shot and killed. His neighbors describe the frightening sounds of gunfire that night.

Terry Sanchez said, "Terrible terrible just bang bang bang bang bang. Just scary."

Sanchez said she grabbed her daughter and daughter's boyfriend and ran into the hallway.

"We grabbed the phone called 9-1-1 and said that we could hear screaming and yelling and car taking off you know screeching," said Sanchez.

Lupercio's murder was the third in Visalia in just nine days. One week before police said /*Aibung Saesee*/ shot and killed his wife Emee. Two days earlier 23-year-old /*Ralph Burciaga*/ was shot and killed on Tipton Street from what police are calling gang gunfire. His family held another car wash Thursday morning to raise money for his funeral.

Last year, Visalia reported gang crimes were down by as much as 70-percent for certain crimes. In 2009 there were just three gang-related homicides compared to possibly two so far this year.

Chief Colleen Mestas permanently took over the police department last month. She said her staff is now re-strategizing to tackle the gang violence.

What we have to do is work more strategic we have to get long-term undercover operations, work with other federal and state agencies, the Sheriff's Department," said Chief Mestas.

Mestas also said even at a time of budget cutbacks and furloughs-- with the community's help, her officers can still stop gang violence.

Chief Mestas said, "We're getting a lot of help from the community, giving us information which is so important especially in gang crimes. I appreciate the response from the community and we're going to analyze each call that we get."

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