SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – Police efforts to prevent shootings like the triple homicide that shocked South San Francisco last December resulted in 118 gang-related arrests in the city during 2011.
Police Chief Mike Massoni created a task force dubbed the Neighborhood Response Team in the months after the Dec. 22, 2010 murders that forced the community to recognize the growing influence of gangs on South San Francisco streets.
KCBS’ Anna Duckworth Reports:
“We’ve kind of looked at some of our neighboring communities and saw it there, and all of the sudden it hit us,” Massoni said.
The city had never before experienced murder on such a scale.
Witnesses reported seeing 3 men drive away after firing into a crowd on the corner or 8th Lane and Linden Ave. Several people were injured, and 3 men died—19-year-old Gonzalo Avalos, 18-year-old Omar Cortez and 20-year-old Hector Flores.
“It tore the city apart,” Massoni said, and spurred the City Council to action.
The Police Department was given enough money to hire 4 more police officers, and the task force Massoni put together in February started talking to people on the streets and in community meetings.
“They have a dual purpose to enforce and arrest whenever possible, but also to outreach to the community, find out what more can be done to help the community solve some of these problems,” Massoni said.
Over the course of many arrests, police also seized 16 weapons.
Abdul Harara, a South San Francisco native born and raised, believes the increased enforcement has helped, and said more still needs to be done.
“It was very effective. But I feel like we shouldn’t have to wait that long, especially as a society,” he said. “If you get to the root of it, then you won’t need to hear sirens all the time.”
Although there have been no arrests in the triple murder case, there has been just 1 homicide in South San Francisco so far during 2011. In September, 14-year-old Joseph Maharaj was killed by a hail of gunfire that also injured 2 other teenagers.
Massoni’s Neighborhood Response Team has funding for 1 more year.
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