Five families were recently evicted from Moonridge Housing Community off Miramontes Point Road. More evictions are expected to come from there and another housing unit on Main Street because of a family member’s involvement with gang activity and criminal behavior, according to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office.
“We work in partnership with the property management companies of these housing units by releasing the public record from the District Attorney’s office to identify criminal activity,” said San Mateo County Sheriff’s Lt. Jeff Kearnan. “Although some may be gang members, it is the criminal activity that we are capturing. This way, if it is a drug or an assault but not enough for the gang charge, the property management company will still have enough to violate or rescind the lease agreement via breach of contract.”
This is just one example of how the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office is partnering with property managers of residential buildings like Moonridge, Coastside Associates, the City of Half Moon Bay, the countywide Gang Task Force, and other agencies and local businesses to combat gang activity on the Coast.
"To keep these housing units safe, property managers are evicting those who are breaking the lease by engaging in drug, gang or criminial behavior," said Kearnan.
With privately owned subsidized housing or Housing and Urban Development (HUD) properties, there is a zero tolerance enforcement policy for gang activity and criminal behavior when it comes to the terms of the lease.
The recent spate of evictions coincidence with the latest program in the Sheriff's Office's overall gang suppression plan for Coastside communities: identifying gang members.
The City of Half Moon Bay announced last week that the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office Coastside Neighborhood Response Team (CNRT), working with the Gang Task Force, has obtained more than 120 gang validations and over 75 documented gang affiliations in Half Moon Bay.
The purpose is to assist the Sheriff’s Office Patrol and Investigations Division in criminal investigations involving gang members and reduce the number of gang related incidents.
“By proactively identifying these gang members, we are taking an important step in combating gangs as we add serious penalties to the crimes they commit,” said San Mateo County Sheriff Greg Munks.
The validations reflect the number of individuals that meet the state’s rigorous standards for gang identification, which include self-admission to being a gang member, possessing identifiable gang-related symbols, being implicated by a reliable source and having a connection with known gang members.
Individuals who have been previously validated per the state’s requirements are subject to more severe charges in criminal cases brought against them. The additional “gang enhancement” charge can add significant penalties to a criminal’s sentence and probation requirements, which create a strong deterrent for individuals who have been previously validated, explains Kearnan.
“This is because individuals that have been verified are subject to gang enhancement penalties (Penal Code 186.22[b]), which are additional charges that can be brought against gang members in connection with their crimes,” said Kearnan, “including an added prison sentence that can be as low as two years and as high as life depending on the crime. This gives the court a powerful tool to keep criminals off the streets for longer periods of time.”
For the past three months, CNRT has been actively monitoring and verifying local gang activities in Half Moon Bay and the greater Coastside area.
Coastside communities have in fact experienced a recent increase in gang activity, according to Kearnan.
“There is not a single reason why this has occurred, but the primary cause for the increase is due to the ongoing rivalry between the Nortenos and Surenos gangs which is occurring throughout California and not just San Mateo County," said Kearnan.
While crimes occurring within the City of Half Moon Bay have garnered the majority of the attention, incidents of gang violence also have occurred within the North and South coastal communities.
“In many of these communities, it has been particularly difficult to obtain critical information regarding gang members and their activities due to intimidation and a lack of trust for outsiders, including law enforcement personnel,” said Kearnan. “For these reasons, the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office dedicated significant resources, personnel and equipment for the creation of the Coastside Neighborhood Response Team.”
Kearnan wants residents to know that the Sheriff's Office is “entirely committed to combating gangs along the Coastside and will not allow them to impact the quality of life here,” he said.
Other initiatives for gang prevention include youth programs offered through the Sheriff's Activities League, graffiti abatement strategies, enhanced communication mechanisms, and the re-deployment of the countywide Gang Task Force. Also, last spring the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office sponsored a Youth Summit held in conjunction with the Sheriff’s Activities League, the Cabrillo Unified School District and the city of Half Moon Bay in an effort to allocate increased funding towards youth programming in Half Moon Bay as a strategy to curb gang participation.
Still, it’s vital for the Half Moon Bay community to understand the importance of cooperating with investigations and reporting criminal behavior to law enforcement, said Kearnan.
“Gangs thrive in environments where people turn a blind eye to their activities, so it's important to stay vigilant if we want to disrupt the ability of gangs to function in this community,” he said.
Gang activity typically picks up during the summer months. The San Mateo County Gang Task Force is stepping up their enforcement efforts but community members are encouraged to call the dispatch number at 650-363-4911 to report any suspected gang or criminal activity.
“Don’t be afraid to call,” said Kearnan. “It’s much easier for us to do a welfare check and do our job in a potential gang situation when we’ve received a call from a concerned resident. We are getting the support from the City and local businesses, but we need residents to help, too.”
Got Patch? Sign up for our newsletter by clicking on the "Patch Newsletter" link on the top right of our homepage.
Want to blog for us? Click here.