Crackdown on gang violence begins
It's been a bloody year in Menlo Park and East Palo Alto — 15 shootings in the past six months have left a trail of wounded, dead and terrified people in their wake. Now three local law enforcement agencies are coordinating Operation SMART, a team effort to shut the violence down.
Police believe a feud between the Taliban and DaVill gangs sparked more than a dozen of the shootings. The Menlo Park, East Palo Alto and Palo Alto police departments will target the gangs on multiple fronts, carrying out drug enforcement operations, launching a homicide response team, and analyzing social networks and shared data to map gang activity along with victim profiles.
Social media will also be used to broadcast a message of non-violence, in hopes of mobilizing local communities to help stop the shootings. In addition, gang members on probation or parole will be referred to the David Lewis Community Re-Entry Program.
"We want to send a clear message to the community that we're working together to stem the violence, and to those responsible that the violence must stop," Menlo Park Interim Police Chief Lee Violett told the City Council during its Nov. 27 meeting.
Menlo Park officers had responded to a shooting in East Palo Alto earlier that day as part of the SMART initiative, Chief Violett said. The department has also increased afternoon patrols, and is considering installing cameras and Shot Spotter technology in Belle Haven.
The local agencies will hold two "ceasefire" call-ins in January for gang members to talk to law enforcement and community representatives, who will offer support services to those wanting to choose a non-violent lifestyle. Outreach workers will be hired to walk the streets to aid those efforts.
On Dec. 18 Menlo Park police will hold a community meeting on gang prevention in the cafeteria of Belle Haven School at 415 Ivy Drive at 6:30 p.m.