In recent weeks, gang violence in Lodi has spiked. Shootings, stabbings and fights have occurred at a growing rate between two rival Lodi gangs — the Norteños and the Sureños — and it’s gotten the police department’s attention.
Accompanied by several other law enforcement agencies, Lodi police have conducted impromptu enforcement efforts to curb the violence. However, despite the sweeps, violence has still risen in a city that’s experienced a sharp decrease in gang activity in recent years.
“In the world of gangs, there’s going to be retaliation for everything,” Lodi Police Lt. Sierra Brucia said. “And that retaliation may come quickly or it may come a period of time away. So a lot of these incidents are retaliation for prior incidents.”
There have been at least three shootings that left four people injured since Nov. 18.
The most recent in a string of violent events occurred Thanksgiving morning in front of Star Market, on the 700 block of South Cherokee Lane, when one suspect fired at four individuals in a fleeing vehicle, striking two people, including one victim in the back of the head.
Both victims were released from Lodi Memorial Hospital within hours.
Last Thursday’s shooting came two days after Lodi police, with assistance from the Delta RATT, state parole agents, and members of the Community Corrections Partnership Task Force, responded to recent gang crimes by conducting compliance checks and gang enforcement sweeps.
The sweeps netted three arrests, including a juvenile police believe was involved in a recent shooting on East Pine and South Washington streets, and a 20-year-old man suspected of being a felon in possession of ammunition.
Brucia said the department hopes additional sweeps, education and community programs will help curb the violence.
“We’re always constantly working on ways to eliminate some of the gang problems that we run into in our city,” said Brucia.
This recent wave of incidents comes as Miguel Araiza Jr., 18, who police say is a documented gang member, stands trial on charges of killing an 18-year-old woman during a gang-related dispute with the woman’s boyfriend last year.
When asked if recent violence stems from the trial, Brucia called it an “interesting theory,” but couldn’t say whether there was a connection.
Significant strides in reducing gang violence since 2011 have been a source of pride for the Lodi Police Department. This year, gang crime has dropped 37 percent from 2012 and it’s only a quarter of what it was in 2011, according to police.
But the city learned last week that an application for its third round of gang intervention funding, which police credit for helping to reduce gang crime, was denied.
Lodi has received roughly $550,000 in Gang Reduction Intervention and Prevention grants in the past, which will last through 2014. But the city’s most recent application for $300,000, which would have provided enough funding to last through 2015, was unsuccessful.
Lodi isn’t the only nearby city to experience recent gang violence.
On Monday, a fourth suspect, Hector Caballero, 18, was arrested in Sacramento in connection with a shooting that killed a teenager in Galt on Nov. 23.
But aside from the murder of 17-year-old Ricardo Guerrero last week, Galt Police Lt. Brian Vizzusi says gang activity has been quiet in Galt.
“We’re not seeing a spike other than last week’s (shooting),” he said.
According to Officer Joe Silva, spokesman for the Stockton Police Department, Stockton hasn’t experienced a recent rash of gang crime, either.
So far this year, there have been 29 homicides in Stockton, compared to 68 at this time last year.
“We’re definitely seeing a steady decrease,” Silva said.
Contact reporter Kristopher Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org.