Atwater police see spike in gang violence

MERCED COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Atwater police say they're trying to stop a spike in gang violence and it all centers around one small area of the city. Police say they've had 185 calls for service at one mobile home park in just the past six months. That's an extremely high number for the department, and officers say it's all tied to two rival gangs. Atwater police say the Camellia Mobile Home Park has become a hot bed for gang activity.

Lt. Sammy Joseph with the Atwater Police Department said, "The call for services for that area alone probably the last 6 months has been almost triple compared to other high volume areas for calls for service."

Those calls include a shooting that killed 22-year-old Matthew Tucker on Mother's Day and another that injured a 45-year-old woman earlier this month. Detectives believe she was struck by a bullet intended for someone else as rival gangs fight for control of the area. Mayor Jim Price says it's a major concern for the city

Atwater Mayor Jim Price said, "Anyone who would live in a neighborhood like that where there's been gun violence and other incidents happening over there, I'm sure it's got to be on their minds."

Even officers are now on high alert for their own safety.

Lt. Joseph said, "We put out a memorandum to the officers to make that a two officer response, so if it's a call for service we need two officers to respond to that area, we don't send a single officer over there."

Lieutenant Sammy Joseph says the issues seemed to escalate when the property was recently in the process of being sold, but the current owners are being cooperative with efforts to get a handle on the violence.

"We are working with the Merced County gang unit, the task force, as well as our own officers are doing high patrol volume over there as well as management over there to see if we can work on evictions over there, some of the trouble people, explained Lt. Joseph.

Lt. Joseph says officers have made some arrests for calls at the mobile home park, but unless the suspects are facing serious, violent charges they're often released from jail in a short amount of time.

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