Sgt. Jim Gillio takes Gabriel Ruiz into the Gilroy Police
music in the park san jose

In response to the two gang-related homicides, a drive-by
shooting in downtown Gilroy and a slew of stabbings and shootings
in recent months, the Gilroy Police Department and other local law
enforcement agencies swept South County, serving warrants from
Morgan Hill to the county line to make sure convicted gang members
were in compliance with the terms of their probations or
paroles.
In response to the two gang-related homicides, a drive-by shooting in downtown Gilroy and a slew of stabbings and shootings in recent months, the Gilroy Police Department and other local law enforcement agencies swept South County, serving warrants from Morgan Hill to the county line to make sure convicted gang members were in compliance with the terms of their probations or paroles. The effort resulted in 17 arrests Friday, part of the ongoing battle to keep Gilroy’s disproportionately large population of gang members, parolees and probationers in check.

“Those folks weren’t in compliance and they need to be held accountable,” Police Chief Denise Turner said of the arrestees. “We have a zero tolerance policy for gang violence.”

More than 750 gang members and their associates call Gilroy home, and more than 1,300 people on probation or parole – about 2.6 percent of the city’s population – live here, too, according to statistics Turner presented to the city council last month. That is about the same percentage as San Martin, but up in Morgan Hill, only about 1.7 percent of the city’s residents report to criminal officers.

“There’s a disproportionate number of criminals living in Gilroy,” Turner said in August after the police department reported a 17.5 percent increase in violent crime. “We don’t want to alarm the community. We have put together a crime strategy to go after the people causing the problems.”

In an effort to do just this, a cohort of about 80 officials from the Gilroy and Morgan Hill police departments, California Highway Patrol, Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office and Probation Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation, United Narcotics Enforcement Team, Regional Auto Theft Task Force, and California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation knocked on 87 doors last week to search homes and serve warrants in one of the largest sweeps in recent years.

“Because we have so many probation and parolees living in Gilroy and we’re worried about gang retaliation, one of the ways to prevent future violence is to make contact, make sure they’re in compliance and they don’t have weapons,” Turner said.

Throughout the years, Mayor Al Pinheiro has said Gilroy has heard many reasons as to why a disproportionate number of convicted criminals live here, but he and Candy Capogrossi – deputy executive director of Housing Programs at the Housing Authority of the County of Santa Clara – said it has historically boiled down to the fact that Gilroy is a cheaper place to live compared to nearby Bay Area cities.

In addition, due to Gilroy’s self-imposed growth limit and the lack of a redevelopment agency to help finance affordable housing, the city’s last two housing plans have not satisfied the Association of Bay Area Government’s – the city’s insurer – recommendations and, therefore, did not receive a stamp of approval from the California Department of Housing and Community Development, which entitles Gilroy to $2.8 billion in state affordable housing subsidies. Gilroy’s HCD Coordinator is currently working on a new housing plan.

“Anecdotally, I’ve heard that (the disproportionately large amount of criminals is) because Gilroy has more poverty than Morgan Hill,” Capogrossi said.

“We’re seeing 50 to 75 percent difference between Morgan Hill and Gilroy on some of these numbers because South County is less expensive,” Pinheiro said. “Do I like this proportion? No. Are the police doing the best they can with what they have? Obviously, because they’re engaging other law enforcement resources, not just our local department. They can’t do it alone, and we have a zero tolerance here.”

To prove it, several teams of about 10 officers scoured each of the residences Friday, looking for violations. As a condition of their release, individuals on probation and parolees must agree to home searches at any time. Officers handcuffed violent offenders during searches for safety.

“We’re not going to take any chances with officer safety,” Gillio said, as an officer emerged from a home on IOOF Avenue with a semi-automatic rifle slung over his shoulder. “Going into someone’s house is one of the most dangerous things we can do. They know their own territory better than we do.”

If convicted of a gang-related crime, an individual cannot associate with suspected or known gang members, according to the terms of his or her release, Gillio said. Police made three arrests at once when they found two parolees and a third man on probation in the same home, Gillio said.

Two gang-related homicides remain unsolved and neither of the two guns used in the shootings have been recovered, Gillio said. Police did, however, recover a rifle from a convicted gang-member’s residence, but the owner was not home, he said.

In 2004, violent crime hit a 10-year low of 182 incidents after peaking in 1995 with 454, nearly twice as many as the current count. But the crime rate creeped upward to 229 incidents in mid-November. Compared to last year, gang-related homicide, aggravated assault, robbery and weapons charges are all up.

“This operation is in response to the uptick in gang violence we’ve had,” Gillio said.

Turner said affordable housing and proactive police work contribute to the number of convicted criminals in Gilroy. On average the GPD makes about 10 arrests a day, which increases the number of criminals entered into the system.

Of the 17 arrests made, the majority were for violations of probation or parole, although several were for weapons and drug offenses.

Police said they will continue to round up criminals.

“I think it’s important to unite, as gang members unite, and for a strong front against crime,” Turner said. “We really do want to prevent violence in our community.”

Previous articleLee A. Vera
Next articleAngry courthouse dispute headed for mediation

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here