Gang violence explodes in Salinas

August 10, 2009 7:29:23 PM PDT
Twenty-one people have been murdered in Salinas this year -- every single one of them, police say, is gang related. In the past couple of weeks, there has been nearly one murder a day.

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An explosion of gang violence in Salinas has killed seven people in the past 12 days, including an innocent 15-year-old boy. The city is under siege and many families are living in fear.

Salinas has been active gang territory for five decades, but city leaders say the threat has morphed from turf wars to drug trafficking that involves Mexican cartels.

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"Some folks get to be the corporate headquarters for Apple, I get to be the corporate headquarters of "Nuestra Familia" and it's organized crime syndicate," Salinas Mayor Dennis Donohue.

The economic factors driving gang activity are also making it more deadly. All 21 homicides in Salinas this year are blamed on gangs.

The California Highway Patrol and the Monterey County Sheriff's Department are joining forces with the Salinas Police Department in hopes that more officers can slow the surge in violence.

The police chief says the counter assault involved a four-day sweep that just ended with some significant arrests, including a suspect in the shooting of the 15-year-old.

"We were able to take six gangsters down, armed gangsters and a number of weapons off the street," Chief Louis Fetherolf said.

Salinas is appealing for state and federal money to keep the pressure on, but they are also letting the community know they have to take an active role.

"The police department can't deal with it alone, agencies like ours can't deal with it alone, we need them to step up, step forward and say something," Second Chance Director Brian Contreras said.

With the gang problem only getting worse, the mayor says not fighting back has unthinkable consequences.

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