Police said they're seeing a big rise in gang violence so far this year-- with an estimated 500 more validated gang members on the streets of Visalia.
The Visalia Police Department will be making room for seven new police officers at its offices -- four of which will be added to the department's dwindling gang unit. Several gang officers had to be moved out of the unit to adjust to budget cutbacks this year.
Chief Colleen Mestas said the city council approved the funding after her department reduced overtime costs and cut other projects.
After seeing a decline in gang violence last year -- the city had two gang-related homicides within the first two weeks of 2010.
Other gang-related crimes have followed -- a sixteen-year-old was arrested after he shot and injured another teenager at Mill Creek Park. And last month -- another person was stabbed by an opposing gang member at the bar, Sports Zone.
Antonio Andrade lives down the street from where 23-year-old Ralph Burciaga was killed in January. He said he doesn't let his son play outside after dark because of the constant sound of gunshots at night. He hopes the new officers make an immediate difference.
The Visalia Police Department said many of the new gang members out on the streets are under the age of 14.
The department will begin the hiring process of the seven new officers as soon as possible.