SALINAS, Calif. - The Salinas Police Department's Violence Suppression Unit is back on the streets.
The first day for the fully operating unit was already a busy one. On Thursday, the VSU teamed with the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), and its parole office to check on those on parole.
Several officers stood armed outside of a house in north Salinas with guns drawn. Others spread across the lawn, ready to respond. A neighbor took out her phone to record what was about to happen.
"State parole! Open the door! Do it now!," an officer ordered after several heavy pounds on the door. But no one answered.
The violence suppression unit's sweep targeted 40 parolees. Now back on the streets, officers have one goal in mind, "to deal with the gangs, the folks that are out in these violence, violent areas, committing these crimes, to deal with them, take them out and put them in jail," said Sgt. George Lauricella.
"What we will do is we will go in with a team, make contact with the residents, and deal with the parolee and the family if they're at the residence, conduct a search, make sure they are staying out of trouble and there are no new violations," Lauricella described one of the operations.
Officers arrested a total of nine people and recovered three handguns.
"We went through a list of subjects that are on parole that we knew were good targets to look at. Either they had violent history or the gang affiliation," Lauricella said.
Starting now, every week the VSU will work to identify these targets and get them off streets.
"Obviously, we've got to get a handle on the gangs that's been involved in the shootings. There are robbery crews that are out there, there is so much going on that's tied to gangs that we need to be involved in identifying which groups we are dealing with and targeting them," Lauricella said.
The department said the unit was disbanded last July due to budget and staffing cuts. The unit is tasked with gathering intelligence, coordinating and conducting counter-violence operations and supporting detectives in their investigations.
The VSU encourages anyone with information or knowledge of gang activities to call their tip line at (831) 775-4222 or the watch commander at (831) 758-7250.