Just a year ago, it might have been unimaginable on the streets of Half Moon Bay.
Yet over the course of a few months — from August to October 2011 — five people were shot at (, ) in rival Norteños vs. Sureños gang shootings on city streets.
The bullets didn't end there. In the early morning hours of this year's Martin Luther King Day holiday, a of a Half Moon Bay residence. The bullet penetrated through a wall to the kitchen and landed in the ceiling while the family slept nearby. The Sheriff's Office did not identify a gang connection to the incident, nor identify a suspect behind the trigger or release a suspected motive.
And later in the month on Jan. 28, four people were on Main St. in another confirmed gang-related incident, according to the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office.
Many locals were left wondering what was happening to cause the string of unsettling incidents in relatively quick succession.
But despite the city's recent history, says there is not an indication that crime is on the increase.
"The concern is understandable," said Lt. Lisa Williams, head of the Half Moon Bay substation of the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office and the agency's Coastside Patrol Bureau in Moss Beach. "The crimes that were committed were violent crimes."
"But this just didn’t happen in six months and all of a sudden we had this gang affiliate decide to act up," Williams said.
"This has been building for some time," she added. "Every community struggles with gang activity of some sort."
The reason(s) behind Half Moon Bay's gang-related incidents?
Williams said that the Sheriff's Office doesn't know the reason why the city experienced a string of gang-related incidents from August to January.
"Most of these activities have been mostly gang violence with rivals usually related to an internal fight and disagreement, or over turf...what they perceive as other gang members coming in to their area," she said.
"Often times law enforcement doesn’t know what these disputes are over," Williams added. "That’s part of the investigation of the motive of a crime," she said.
"Other times we might have slight insight as to what is going on and to the cause of a specific crime and then you have retaliation," Williams said, citing "some element" of retailation in the October shooting allegedly initiated by known Sureños gang member and suspect Jose Casillas Monroy. Monroy was shot in the foot in the August incident.
"You can take shotcallers off the street and there will be a vacuum and void, and then others come in and want to prove themselves," she said.
Longer perspective needed when looking at recent statistics, Williams and Alifano say
Williams agreed with Half Moon Bay Mayor Allan Alifano, who said that the statistics needs to be looked at from a "longer perspective" when asked by Half Moon Bay Patch whether he thought the city had a gang problem based on the recent spate of incidents.
"We have to get back to 10-20 years and historically put things in perspective," he said.
Citing data the Sheriff's Office collected of all incidents classified as gang-related in Half Moon Bay from 2004-2011, Williams said that most of the incidents from this period were graffiti-related.
Graffiti and vandalism gang-related incidents, Williams said, were recorded at the Sheriff's Office as follows:Year
Number of Half Moon Bay graffiti or vandalism cases
(gang-related)2011 36 2010 28 2009 34 2008 38 2007 45
What about more serious crimes? "In 2004 there was a murder, in 2005 there was one attempted murder incident and in 2007 there was one attempted murder incident," she said of gang-related incidents in Half Moon Bay.
While the numbers of attempted murders in 2011 alone (5) is still greater than the total number of murders and attempted murders in Half Moon Bay from 2004-2010 (3), the six-month period is a "snapshot" and a "spike" which should be looked at in a longer context, an undercover detective with the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office Gang Intelligence Unit told Half Moon Bay Patch. (Editor's Note: Due to the highly sensitive nature of his identity, the detective did not reveal his name).
A cycle of activity
"It's more like a cycle of gang activity rather than something that goes up and down," the detective told Half Moon Bay Patch.
"Gang crime has always been around – from graffiti to murder," another Gang Intelligence Unit undercover detective told Half Moon Bay Patch.
"It’s always there — it happened to culminate up to that [violence]," he said.
Come back to Half Moon Bay Patch for the continuation of this article.
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