While the total number of gang member arrests decreased, an increased number of searches and seizures took place in 2010 compared to the year before, according to never-before released data from the San Mateo County Gang Task Force to Half Moon Bay Patch.
Staffed by an ever-rotating group of Sheriff's deputies and police officers from across San Mateo County, the Gang Task Force is under the jurisdiction of the Gang Intelligence Unit of the Sheriff's Office. The charge of the Task Force is to keep a lid on gang activity in the county by monitoring identified hot spots and checking in on gang members, affiliates and associates on probation or parole, according to San Mateo County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Leo Capovilla, head of the Gang Task Force and the Gang Intelligence Unit.
The Gang Task Force was created in 2005 as a way to address the challenges cities were having with gangs at the time, Capovilla said.
"The problems that we had in 2005 were that gangs crossed city boundaries, but as law enforcement, we had city boundaries," said Capovilla.
"San Mateo County's model is unique, because we collaborate and work together across the county," he said.
According to Capovilla, the county is looked to as a model across the Bay Area for the way cities work together to share information as part of its Gang Task Force and Narcotics Task Force, as well as for pooling resources.
Each city contributes a proportional number of staff and funding to the Gang Task Force based on the size of the city. Eight cars with three to four officers in each car are deployed at one time with each unit taking on a different assignment at various locations across San Mateo County, said Capovilla.
"That's why a resident of Half Moon Bay may see a Hillsborough police car on their streets," Capovilla said.
One of the Sheriff's deputies who works as part of the Gang Task Force is Alfredo Gudino, a school resource officer who is part of the agency's school policing unit.
Gudino and other members of the Gang Task Force have patrolled identified hotspots in Half Moon Bay, especially in the wake of two last year between rival Norteño and Sureño street gangs, according to Lt. Lisa Williams, head of the Sheriff's Office substation in Half Moon Bay. Both gangs have strongholds in Half Moon Bay.
For 16 weeks of the year — centering around the summer months — the Task Force operates full time. During the rest of the year, it operates for four days each month. The specific days of the month are not announced to the public beforehand.
During a shift, units will search every person on parole or probation identified by the county's Gang Intelligence Unit as someone who is a gang member, gang affiliate or gang associate, according to Capovilla.
"We're going to knock on their door and search them," Capovilla said. "Then we'll send reports to their parole officer and tell them how they're doing."
Standard conditions for those on parole and probation are not being allowed to drink alcohol, carry weapons, spend time in "high violence" areas or hang out with other gang members, Capovilla said. Specific conditions vary depending on the crime associated with each individual, according to Capovilla.
Weapons and drugs seizures increased by the Gang Task Force from 2009 to 2010, according to data released to Patch exclusively thus far by the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office (see table below).
One statistic Capovilla pointed out was the increase in seized firearms, which more than doubled from 2009 (15) to 2010 (34).
Over 1900 grams of drugs were seized in 2010, compared to over 1600 grams the year before. While marijuana was the most common drug seized by far in 2009 and 2010, cocaine was the second-most seized drug in 2009, followed by methamphetamines. In 2010, the amount of seized cocaine decreased dramatically while seized methamphetamines increased to the second-most commonly seized drug that year.
In 2010, the total number of searches increased from over 2800 to close to 4700 compared to the year before.
The total number of contacts made in the field — comprised of individuals identified to be gang members (or gang affiliates and associates) as well as non-gang members — increased by over 1600 from 6640 contacts in 2009 to 8300 in 2010.
While arrests were were down for juveniles from 2009 to 2010, adult arrests were slightly elevated for the same period. Total arrests decreased from 531 in 2009 to 494 the following year, however.
San Mateo County Gang Task Force Deployment Statistics, 2009 - 2010
2010ARRESTS 429 346 Adult 102 148 Juvenile 531 494 TOTAL ARRESTS 531 494
Parole 156 210 Probation 271 207 Arrest Warrant 8 6 Prepared Searches/Warrants Sent 435 423 TOTAL PREPARED SEARCHES COMPLETED 284 363
Parole 424 617 Probation 745 1344 Consent 1385 2373 TOTAL ON-VIEW SEARCHES COMPLETED 2554 4334
1* On-View Field Contacts (Non-Gang) 5833 6425 2 *On-View Field Contacts (Gang) 807 1875 -New Gang Validations 233 390 -Field Identifications (FI's) 1795 2569 TOTAL ON-VIEW FIELD CONTACTS (*1+2*) 6640 8300
Firearms 15 34 Other Weapons 24 32 TOTAL WEAPONS 39 66 Heroin (Grams) 39.34 22.1 Cocaine (Grams) 247.82 64.43 Methamphetamines (Grams) 149.6 202.11 MDMA-Ecstasy (2009 Grams/2010 Pills) 199.76 88 Marijuana (Grams) 1015.16 1527.18 TOTAL DRUGS 1651.68 1903.82
Source: Gang Task Force, San Mateo County Sheriff's Office