Police patrols increased amidst turf war


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"I don't think it's too early for us to anticipate that we could very soon see retaliation shootings," Richmond Police Lt. Mark Gagan told ABC7.

Police are bracing for even more violence. They have called in extra officers and increased patrols to try and prevent it.

A bloody night left two people dead, one man in critical condition and four others wounded by gunfire. Now, authorities say there will be zero tolerance for low-level crimes that have the potential to lead to something worse.

"Loitering, public consumption of alcohol, gambling, any type of vehicle code violation... things like that," Lt. Gagan described.

Police are not saying whether the shootings were related, but they are calling it a turf war. The first one took place shortly after 11 p.m. Over the next hour, two other shootings were reported.

Police say each time, the suspects fled.

At one apartment complex, midnight gunfire sent more than 100 bullets through people's cars and homes. Residents were terrified.

"Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop. She said, 'Was that the train?' I said 'Them are gunshots," recalled neighbor Dwight Hill.

There have been 17 homicides so far in 2009 in Richmond, including four over the past four days.

"I'm angry. I'm angry and I feel that this stuff has to stop," said Rev. George Brown, a well-known anti-violence activist. In a sign of just how pervasive the violence has become, he is a grieving father. His 34-year-old son was among those killed Monday in Richmond.

On Wednesday he had a message for those responsible for all the shootings.

"So, I'm asking that... Stop this violence. Stop this killing and let's move on," he pleaded.

For many residents the increased police patrols are not much comfort or consolation. Many were too scared to go on camera. One neighbor even invited ABC7 into their home and showed where a bullet entered his bathroom wall. Many say the violence just does not make sense any more.

On Wednesday evening former gang bangers, who say God saved them, walked the streets telling others about their non-profit rehab group called "Victory Outreach."

"It's not about colors or anything. It's about the drugs and the money that's out there," said Santos Torres from Victory Outreach.

Santos Torres says one neighborhood block can bring in $50,000 a week. He was a small time dealer.

"You're looking at a $1,000 to $1,500 a day," said Torres.

He says Crescent Park, with its solar panels and remodeled units, still has the same problems.

"They are looking at the poverty. They're looking at you know, 'I got to do something, somehow, some way to survive,'" said Torres.

And Maurice Holloway from Victory Outreach, who grew up here, says the streets are saturated with cheap drugs.

"You can get an ecstasy pill for $5 now," said Holloway.

But the big seller, he says, is crystal meth and cheap drugs intensify competition. Right now, he says Crescent Park is territory that's up for grabs.

"You got a lot of people from everywhere clicking up. Trying to take over a section they don't even live in or they're not even from," said Holloway.

No arrests have been made but several community and church leaders believe they know who's behind this.

This Saturday, they say they're meeting with those people behind closed doors in an effort to end the shootings.

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