SALINAS, Calif. - UPDATE 9/7/2016 6 PM: In just the past few days, there has been a renewed effort to combat gang violence in the area. The Salinas Police Department's Violence Suppression Unit is bringing together resources from other law enforcement agencies. They say now is the time to act, as authorities investigate the 28th homicide of the year in Salinas.
"I can't in good conscious go on any longer and not try to address this firearm violence problem that we have in a more assertive way, because clearly just doing it with patrol officers is not making progress," said Salinas Police Chief Kelly McMillin.
The unit is rebooting after having been shut down last July. At that time, the department was forced to close all units outside of patrol and investigations, which left it without any dedicated gang enforcement/gang investigation units. According to a news release from the department, the new unit will gather intelligence and conduct counter-violence operations.
"They're going to be doing their own self-initiated work to deal with the gangsters that are driving this violence," McMillin said.
They will not be responding to calls for service. That will still be the main responsibility of patrol units.
Because crime isn't confined to Salinas but exists countywide, other agencies are devoting manpower. The Monterey County Sheriff's Office is one of the agencies participating by contributing two deputies full time.
"The violence and the threat to public safety has risen to the level where we need to assign these deputies to it to help Salinas and in turn, they can help us with our violent crime, so it's become important enough that we make that decision to make those assignments," said Cmdr. John Thornburg.
On Thursday, top brass at the Salinas Police Department will meet with the California Highway Patrol about participation. CHP said it is more than likely they will chip in resources, but it's not known to what extent. McMillin is also anticipating help from parole and probation. And when possible, federal help could be available.
Trends discovered by the department's crime analyst could help the unit target trouble spots.
"So if intelligence says they need to be on the street, then they'll be in uniforms driving black-and-whites, going out and looking for whatever they're looking for," McMillin said. "If the intelligence says they need a wiretap, then they're going to do that. If the intelligence says they need to go undercover and do surveillance work, then they're going to do that."
But the help comes at a price. In a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul, the patrol staff will be short because that's where the unit members will come from.
"More overtime, more demands on the other police officers, probably longer wait times for people who are calling on lower-priority calls for service that are not life-threatening," McMillin said. "They're going to wait a little longer for a police officer. But that's unfortunately the circumstance we find ourselves in and we have to be realistic about it."
At this point, the unit will be provisional for 90 days. It will then be up to the incoming police chief to decide its fate.
KION is learning more about the relaunch of the Salinas Police Department's Violence Suppression Unit.
KION's Mariana Hicks spoke with police officials Wednesday and learned the unit is expected to be operational in mid-September. Officers are currently being interviewed for the five-member unit, which is shaping up as a collaborative effort among local law enforcement agencies. Members of the unit will coordinate with the Monterey County Sheriff's Office and possibly state and federal agencies as well.
The unit's strategies will be fluid, utilizing data from the department's crime analyst. Tactics could include officers in uniform, surveillance and undercover work.
We will have more on this story tonight at 5 and 6.