Spike in gang violence may foreshadow a long, hot summer

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    SANTA ANA – Police could sense the tension building on the streets. It exploded in gunfire on a single bloody afternoon last month: three shootings, three teenage boys fighting for their lives.

    That spasm of violence and a recent surge in gang attacks have police bracing for the start of the summer, the peak season for trouble. They will be outnumbered: Santa Ana has 362 sworn officers trying to contain 5,000 documented gang members.

    They also will be working against budget cuts that have curtailed their overtime pay and reduced the number of jail beds available. They don't expect to solve the gang problem – not this summer, not for a long time. But they do hope to keep a lid on the bloodshed through the long months to come.

    "You sense that thin line of respect between the gangs is very fragile right now," said Sgt. Lorenzo Carrillo, who heads the city's gang investigative unit. He added: "We are trying to control the number of incidents, especially the violent ones."

    Santa Ana, as the biggest city in Orange County, also has the most crime and the most gangs – with nearly 100 identified. But it's a far safer place than it was in the mid-1990s, when warring gangs sent dozens of bodies to the morgue every year. The city has had three gang-related homicides this year, the lowest since 2003.

    But gang-related assaults have risen sharply in recent months, police statistics show. Most involved guns or knives, but attackers have also wielded bottles, a baseball bat and, in one case, a large tree branch.

    The drop in homicides – not just in Santa Ana, but across Orange County – "is not for lack of trying," said John Anderson, the assistant district attorney in charge of the gang unit. "That's just bullets not being lethal," he said. "The attempted homicides have remained pretty steady."

    Spike in gang violence may foreshadow a long, hot summer | gang, police, gangs - News - The Orange County Register

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