During its full first summer operation, the San Mateo County Gang Task Force arrested 402 people and identified 206 gang members while significantly curbing an increase in violent crimes that peaked last year.
The gang task force, sponsored by the San Mateo County Police Chiefs Association, teams officers from 20 cities, the Broadmoor Police Department and the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office. The task force formed last year for eight weeks in late summer. This year, the task force was fully staffed from May 24 to Sept. 9 with one goal — to prevent gang violence by going after major offenders.
"It was pretty amazing,” said San Mateo Police Chief Susan Manheimer. "It really helped not only to quell gang activity, but identify more gang members.”
Aided in part by the probation department, the task force targeted high-profile gang members. The task force conducted 203 parole and 431 probation searches. It made 402 arrests, including 351 adults and 51 juveniles. Of those arrests, 50 were for parole violations, 59 were for probation violations and 94 were for other reasons. The task force positively identified 206 confirmed gang members, said Capt. Don O’Keefe of the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office.
The task force also collected five handguns, 30 replica firearms, 20 knives, 1/2 pound cocaine and 1/4 pound methamphetamine, O’Keefe said.
The task force hit the streets periodically to make random searches and patrol known gang hot spots. When the task force is on the street, it’s the largest law enforcement group working in the county.
"We had to let them know there was no place in the county for them to run and hide,” Manheimer said.
A sure sign that it was working was gang-related graffiti that made specific reference to getting rid of the gang task force, Manheimer said.
The Police Chiefs Associations formed the task force last September in response to growing gang violence throughout the county. Many of the gang fought with other gangs from other cities, making them hard to target. The task force allows officers from all cities to share their knowledge of gangs and figure out how they relate to ones elsewhere in the county.
It arrested 194 people during its initial eight-week stint. It dropped its enforcement to one week a month during the winter.
Following the success of last year’s crackdown, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors created the Gang Investigation and Intelligence Unit in the Sheriff’s Office. Part of the unit’s responsibility is to collect data from all departments and provide a central database that will help officers throughout the county fight gangs, O’Keefe said.
The unit launched its own Web site last month, www.smsogang.org, where people can report gang activity via e-mail. It will help police gauge hot spots and track gang activity like graffiti. The site is still under construction and only a few people have used the service, O’Keefe said.
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