According to Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Captain Paul Becker gangs have been migrating from urban communities to suburban cities for four decades.
“These gangs are now fully entrenched in many communities across the nation,” Becker said.
At Tuesday night’s meeting, Becker explained to the city council that the Santa Clarita Valley is not immune to the migration. The same amenities that attract many of its residents also bring gangs.
“With two major freeways, two large lakes, a nationally recognized amusement park, and a close proximity to a major metropolitan center, the draw in Santa Clarita is significant,” said Becker.
Anticipating the influx of criminal elements, even on a transient basis, Becker formed a two-man gang intelligence team back in 2001.
Their mission was to identify and document the various types of criminal street gang members that migrated from outside the city as well as those forming alliances within our existing population.
This aggressive intelligence laid the groundwork for a more comprehensive plan that Becker implemented in June.
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“The plan encompassed the creation of a 5 member patrol gang enforcement team with a specific mission of identifying, tracking and ultimately arresting both domestic and foreign criminal street gang members who violate laws within our community,” said Becker.
Not only will the special assignment team focus on crimes associated with gangs and gang membership, it will also serve as a patrol based reduction team to supplement current crime prevention efforts.
“It is my intention to ensure that this team spends 50% of their time focusing on the gang initiative and 50% of their time focusing on Part I crime reduction,” Becker said.
According to Becker, Santa Clarita realized an historically low crime rate in Santa Clarita and that trend that has continued in 2011.
“We currently stand 14 percent below the 2010 levels for Part One crimes. Again,the lowest rate the city has seen since incorporation,” Becker said.
The reduction in crime allowed Becker to begin restructuring resources with the creation of the Juvenile Intervention Team in 2010, the launch of the Crime Prevention Unit (CPU)this past March and now the new Patrol Gang Unit.
Becker removed deputies from his regular patrol cadre and created a tactical team, the CPU, with the mission of continuing to push the crime rate down.
“If my crime rate was up I wouldn’t have been able to necessarily afford to do that,” said Becker.
The Crime Prevention Unit responsibility is divided up into eight zones within the Santa Clarita Valley: Gorman, Castaic, Stevenson Ranch, Newhall, Valencia, Saugus, Canyon Country East, and Canyon Country West,
“Each of these zones is being monitored by a deputy zone leader who looks at reported crime, trouble locations, where parolees live, where probationers reside, where registered sex offenders are hanging out and living,” Becker said.
Becker says the shared knowledge of the zone leaders has already lead to more efficient law enforcement services, timely and efficient allocation of resources, and the solving and identification of crime trends before they become crime sprees.
However, Becker insists none of the Sheriff’s Department’s crime prevention and crime solving could have happened without cooperation.
“I’ve I said in the past, the community partnerships that we have formed with our residents, with our businesses and the City of Santa Clarita are a key component to recent success in keeping our community safe,” Becker said.