Confronting north county gangs – finally
September 1, 2011
By DANIEL BLACKBURN
Following years of publicly understating, even concealing, criminal gang activity and influence in the north county, a depleted Paso Robles police department now will be working with multiple law enforcement agencies to address what officials call “a surge of violence” by local and outside gang activity.
Paso Robles Police Chief Lisa Solomon and San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson will announce on Friday formation of a program dubbed “Safe Streets,” described as a “series of operations to identify, contact, and arrest gang members, and to impact drug-related crimes in the entire north county area.”
Solomon said “a recent rash of violent crime” in Paso Robles prompted what she described in a joint statement as “the need for a comprehensive plan” to address a growing problem with gang-related criminal activities.
Most recent of these incidents was Aug. 24, when at least one person was shot in an alleged drug deal gone bad in the northern section of Paso Robles. Local police have not mentioned gangs, nor attributed the shooting to gang members, in information released to the media to date.
Sources have told CalCoastNews, however, that several members of a Five Cities gang drove to Paso Robles, apparently to sell drugs in the north city, and the attack occurred as a result of that activity. Witnesses reported seeing a late-model white Chevrolet SUV leaving the scene that police said might be involved.
Numerous gang problems occur each year at public gatherings such as the Mid-State Fair – both inside and outside the venue – but are rarely acknowledged by authorities or reported by the local media.
In his written statement regarding “Safe Streets,” Parkinson insisted he does “not intend to allow this kind of activity in the north county. We will bring together all resources at my disposal and introduce additional law enforcement partners, including the FBI, California Highway Patrol, Monterey County Sheriff’s Department, Probation & Parole, as well as enhancing our local gang task force.”
Leveraging law enforcement capabilities will allow officials to “treat in a regional way the entire north county” with an operation that will remain intact indefinitely, the officials said.
The Paso Robles Police Department has been decimated over the past few years; city officials hoped to have 46 sworn officers by 2008, but today there are only 27. Within the department there now is no D.A.R.E. program; no motorcycle officers (with two new BMW cycles sitting idle); no traffic unit; no gang unit; and no narcotics team. Only two detectives remain.