Gang task force organized by Woodland Police Department in response to recent surge in violence

Gang task force organized by Woodland Police Department in response to recent surge in violence

Photo Credits: KAITLYN PANG / AGGIE

Reward fund, gang task force, increased patrols implemented after three unsolved deadly homicides in recent months

The Woodland Police Department announced the formation of the Gang Task Force to combat a spike in gang-related violence in recent months. The announcement came after three unsolved homicides occurred in Woodland, including the death of 16-year-old Alvaro Gamera in October. 

In a video posted to the Woodland Police Department’s Facebook page, Sergeant Francisco DeLeon outlines the formation of the Gang Task Force and how it will be supported through other agencies.

“This is a newly formed task force created to investigate and combat gang crime in the City of Woodland,” DeLeon said. “The Woodland Police Department has invited state and local agencies to partner with us, and more information will be shared as it is finalized.”

Anthony Cucchi, the Deputy Chief of the Woodland Police Department, explained how the task force will grow in the coming weeks. 

“Right now we just have two detectives and a sergeant from the Woodland Police Department assigned to the team,” Cucchi said. “We’re expecting that the Yolo County Sheriff’s Office is going to send a detective and Information is going to send a probation officer to be part of it.”

Up until two years ago, the Woodland Police Department had a gang task force similar to the one they are creating now. This task force changed its title to “Special Response Team” and has a more localized approach, according to Cucchi. Now, the Woodland Police Department is reaching back out to Yolo County for more resources in light of recent crimes.

The three fatal shootings remain unsolved, but police suspect that the motives are connected to gang violence. Besides the arrest of one man who was later released, no other suspects have been detained from the shootings, which occurred on Oct. 16, Nov. 17 and Jan. 9. Yet the impact on the community has been lasting. Three people — Alvaro Gamera, age 16, Raymond Ortiz, age 44 and Isaaco Carlos Morales, age 20 — were killed and several others were injured. 

Cucchi said utilizing countywide resources will improve the likelihood that these crimes are solved in a timely manner.

  “These crimes don’t just happen in one jurisdiction,” Cucchi said. “They’re here, in West Sacramento and in Davis. We find that we can’t solve these crimes alone — we need to work together.”

Though gang-related shootings happen throughout Yolo County, they are not often isolated incidences, Cucchi said. 

“When we get to the bottom of it, it will be one incident that will fracture into four or five other incidents with retaliation,” Cucchi said. “Usually, you can narrow it back to a source over time when the investigation is all set and done.”

In an effort to get more information about the homicides, the Woodland Police Department has offered a reward of up to $100,000 for anyone who can provide details that lead to the arrest of suspects involved in the shootings. Cucchi explained that the incentive can encourage those who are scared of giving information to come forward. 

“In these gang-type crimes, we know that a lot of people don’t talk,” Cucci said. “They’re afraid of what might happen, so this is how we try to let people know that they can tell us something if they have a tip, and it can be anonymous.”

The Woodland Police Department is also working on improving communication between the community and its officers. The department has been using its Facebook page as a platform to get crucial information out to the community, and it asks that community members report suspicious activity in their area.

Cucchi said this collaboration, along with increased police patrols paid through extra overtime funds, has led to a recent arrest. Officers found a stolen firearm and cocaine in a vehicle after a neighbor called in to report the car, according to a Woodland Police Facebook post on Jan. 20, 2020.

“This is a perfect example of how together, as a team, we can make this community safer,” the post stated. “Thanks to an alert neighbor, this call led to getting another gun off the street.”

Written by: Madeleine Payne — city@theaggie.org 

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