Profile No. 29

Youth Firearms Violence Initiative -- Salinas, CA

Program Type or Federal Program Source:
Initiative to deter gun carrying in high-crime hotspot areas; Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.

Program Goal:
To reduce youth firearm violence through proactive enforcement.

Specific Groups Targeted by the Strategy:
Youth gang members under age 25.

Geographical Area Targeted by the Strategy:
Salinas, CA.

Evaluated by:
Criminal Justice Department,
Sacramento State University,
Sacramento, CA.; Abt Associates Inc., Cambridge, MA.

Contact Information:
Sergeant Tracy Molfino
Salinas Police Department
222 Lincoln Avenue
Salinas, CA 93901­2639
Phone: 831­758­7348

Years of Operation:

Between 1984 and 1994, the Salinas community witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of gangs and the amount of gang-related violence. The Salinas Police Department identified 14 street gangs with more than 400 certified and active gang members. Moreover, during this time period, the annual number of homicides in Salinas tripled (75 percent of these were gang related). Notably, 90 percent of the gun-related violent offenses that occurred in the community involved perpetrators under the age of 25 years.

YFVI sought to respond to these problems by addressing the community conditions associated with gang violence and gang-related activities through proactive enforcement strategies. Prior to the development of this initiative, the Salinas Police Department had been involved in several antigang efforts, created a Gang Task Force, and had participated in several community partnerships including a violent injury prevention program. YFVI, however, was an independent venture of the Salinas Police Department.

The primary component of the YFVI strategy was the creation of a Violence Suppression Unit (VSU) -- which is an expansion of the previous Gang Task Force. The VSU consists of 15 police officers and utilizes a series of aggressive patrol strategies. These strategies include periodic surveillance, probation/parole searches, traffic stops, the use of raids and search warrants to recover illegal firearms and firearms used in crimes, the use of informants, and the development of criteria for determining gang membership. In addition, YFVI developed a Geographic Information System data base that geographically tracks gang-related activity and firearm use. This system allows Salinas police officers to respond to inquiries regarding the location of firearm seizures, violent crimes, and gang incidents near school zones.

This initiative has had several successful outcomes. Data show that there has been an increase in the number of violent crime arrests in the Salinas area since the initiative began. Gun-related crimes and violent offenses committed by youth under the age of 25 years dropped considerably during the first 2 years of the initiative (34 percent and 21 percent, respectively). Similar decreases were found for all gun crimes and violent offenses (regardless of the perpetrator's age) occurring in the community, resulting in a communitywide reduction in gun-related and violent crimes. There also is consensus among VSU officers that gang members no longer hang out on the streets. Moreover, anecdotal evidence suggests that the sense of fear among community members has decreased.

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