A recent article by the blog “The People’s Vanguard of Davis” investigated the extent of gang activity in Davis.
The article explored whether there is a rising gang threat in Davis or a matter of the Davis Police Department and the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office overreacting to relatively minor offenses by tacking on gang enhancements, or charges.
“The Vanguard” recounts how a Davis mother, whose name is being withheld, was stunned to learn her teenage son would be facing 10 felonies including five gang charges for his role in a fistfight in front of her home.
The woman arrived home one day in the evening to find a number of teens leaving her property. One of her son’s friends had fought a young male over a bicycle. In addition to the boys, there were four spectators on each side watching them fight.
“From what I could see I didn’t even know there had been a fight,” the mother said. “I definitely didn’t see any weapons. There was no sign of blood or trauma, no yelling or screaming. I couldn’t tell there had been a fight.”
According to the Yolo County District Attorney, there are 1,088 validated gang members currently residing in Yolo County. Gangs operating in Yolo County include Norteño, Crips, Vagos, Nazi Low-Riders, 1-80 Boys, Sureños, Tiny Rascals Gang, AUSA Skinheads, Mara Salvatrucha and Fucked Up Punks.
Gang membership is defined as having written and/or received correspondence about gang activities or being named by another known or validated gang member as member of gang. Other characteristics include gang logo tattoos, clothing, colors, or association on a regular basis with known gang members.
Gang members also may be in a photograph indicating gang affiliation, contacted in the field for gang activity, displaying gang signs, using graffiti on personal belongings or involved in gang-related crimes.
According to the Davis Police Department, there are 121 validated active gang members in Davis. There are also 53 validated gang members who are not currently active. The police have 20 unique street gangs listed in their database but only seven are considered active because they have members living in Davis.
In an October Davis Enterprise article, former Yolo County Gang Task Force member, Davis Police officer Keirith Briesenick, indicated there may only be 20 to 30 active gang members in Davis, but added about 10 individuals mainly focus on gang activity. There are another 20 or 30 people living in Davis who are loosely gang-related, as well as several dozen others who are validated non-Davis resident gang members.
Since 2007, the DPD made 18 individual arrests with a gang enhancement charge.
Davis Police chief Landy Black told “The Vanguard” there is not a large gang problem when one counts the number of gang crimes this way.
Sergeant Dale Johnson, a member of the Yolo County Gang Task Force, said based on personal experience gang activity is increasing.
“As a task force our job is to gather intelligence and not only share it with law enforcement, but other surrounding agencies such as schools, parents and teachers,” Johnson said. “Everyone has a different interpretation of the gang situation, and some call it overblown, but a lot of people are in denial. You’re never going to appease everyone, but you just have to contact the Davis Police Department and you’ll find that it’s there.”
Some believe the absence of the Teen Center, which closed in order to open the Bicycle Hall of Fame on Third and B Streets, has an effect on the prevalence of gang activity.
Davis Community Services supervisor Anne Marquez believes a lack of programming, not the center’s absence, would be detrimental to the community.
“I do know that teen programming is a deterrent to people making bad choices,” Marquez said. “We had a dance competition in which some contestants had to be asked to remove gang-related clothing.”
Pam Mari, spokesperson for the Davis Unified School District, said the school district and police work together to prevent gang activity.
“We have had trouble with gangs and we’re not plagued by them because we take a very strong stance about it,” Mari said. “I once asked a student who was involved with gangs what would happen if we got rid of the dress codes and he said a gang fight would break out in the quad in 10 minutes.”
For more information on gangs visit: cityofdavis.org/police/investigations/gang.cfm.
ANGELA SWARTZ can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.