SACRAMENTO, CA - Sacramento police say gang-related violence has nearly doubled in the first five months of 2010 -- and they worry the trend may be hard to reverse.
"It's troubling, the amount of gang violence we're having," said police spokesman Sgt. Norm Leong.
Thursday morning, gang unit officers arrested Andre Johnson, 19, for allegedly keeping a stash of weapons in his home in the 3900 block of Balsam Street.
"Seized was a SKS, or AK-47-type assault weapon, another rifle, a pistol, ammunition as well as a bullet proof vest," said police gang unit Sgt. Rudy Chan.
Johnson had a bullet wound to his shoulder and knee that gang unit officers believe are related to a drive-by shooting on May 1.
"Last week, we had a second shooting that we believe is connected to the first incident," said Leong, adding that information investigators gathered led them to serve a search warrant at Johnson's home.
"The increasing gang violence in Sacramento ... has almost doubled since last year," Chan said.
Police Chief Rick Braziel has said the increase may be due to the continuing economic slump and to gang members released early from prison and under less supervision due to state budget cuts.
Gang unit officers said parents sometimes have no idea their kids are involved in gangs or gang-related activities.
"It's very important for families and parents to know what their kids are doing, who they're associating with and what's in their houses," said Chan.
Johnson's mother Rosanna Brooks said her son does not have gang ties. "He works two jobs. When do you have time to be a gang member?" Brooks said.
Investigators said the family may have had no idea of the arsenal Johnson allegedly possessed. "As we can see, some parents just don't know what their kids are involved in," said Chan.
"Some people with no prior gang connections or aren't validated or are in our system as gang-involved are associating with gang members or tied to gangs somehow," said Leong.
Leong said intervention to get a handle on escalating violence has to come early. "In this case, he's a 19 year old. We're finding gang members as young as 10, 11, 12."
Investigators also worry at a trend they are seeing toward more high-powered weapons. "Our fear is that people in the community may get hurt, officer safety issues in dealing with people with these high-powered rifles," Leong said.
Chan said the AK-47-type weapon confiscated Thursday is a good example.
"It does fire a 7.62 millimeter round which can easily penetrate soft body armor and it can actually penetrate some light armored vehicles as well," Chan said.
Leong said police will need plenty of help. "We can't solve the gang issue by ourselves. It's a community effort. It's a family effort. It starts with the home."