Sweep picks up 13 suspects linked to gang activity

David Iglesias

Morgan Hill police combined forces with area law enforcement agencies to arrest 13 residents on a variety of charges during a parole and probation sweep targeting street gang activity last Friday.

The sweep was part of the “multi-faceted,” state-funded California Gang Reduction, Intervention and Prevention program, known as CalGRIP, according to Morgan Hill police Sgt. Troy Hoefling.

The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, Gilroy police, state department of probation and the department of corrections participated in the operation, Hoefling said. More than 60 officers participated in the sweep.

Officers conducted 20 probation and parole checks of known gang-related residents, stopped 20 vehicles and contacted 16 pedestrians during the operation, Hoefling said.

Those on probation or parole who were contacted in the operation were “all associated to gang ties, through the terms of their probation or parole,” Hoefling said.

Motorists and pedestrians targeted in the operation were stopped for “probable cause” observed by officers such as curfew or vehicle code violations, and through “consensual encounters” with police, Hoefling said.

The 13 arrests included allegations of eight narcotics-related violations, three parole violations and two warrant arrests, police said.

The names of those arrested were not available Wednesday afternoon.

The operation was restricted mostly to Morgan Hill, with some officer activity extending just outside the city limits into San Martin, Hoefling said.

South County law enforcement agencies collaboratively applied for and received the CalGRIP funding to allow them to combine resources in an effort to combat criminal street gang activity, Hoefling said.

The South County area has seen a rise in gang-related activity in recent years, including 272 gang-related incidents in Morgan Hill since 2007, police said.

Hoefling noted that violent gang-related activity historically rises during the period of September through December each year. Of the total gang-related incidents reported in Morgan Hill in the last five years, 125 of those occurred during these fall and winter months.

The last three homicides in Morgan Hill were all gang-related, and all three happened from September to December in previous years, Hoefling added.

Police do not know why this time period seems to generate more gang-related violence than others. So far this year since September, Morgan Hill police have seen a rise in gang-related graffiti and tagging, Hoefling said.

Plus, a number of murders have been reported in recent months in surrounding communities such as Gilroy, Hollister, Salinas and San Jose, police said.

CalGRIP also focuses on intervention and prevention to keep young people out of street gangs, and the South Santa Clara County Youth Task Force was formed by the CalGRIP grant to achieve that end, Hoefling said.

The task force is a two-year project, and will connect gang-involved or at-risk youth in Morgan Hill, Gilroy and San Martin to a continuum of community-based services, such as job training and juvenile justice programs, Hoefling said.

“It’s our effort to use (CalGRIP) to get out ahead of (the gang problem), and let people know that gang violence and activity won’t be tolerated,” Hoefling said.

More details on the arrests and CalGRIP will follow.