Prison re-alignment deemed one factor in escalating gang violence in San Diego

Police trying to respond to growing trend

SAN DIEGO - In the wake of two homicides in a span of five hours, some fear it is a sign of a growing and violent trend spilling into San Diego streets.

On Thursday afternoon, a shooting was reported in Lincoln Park, while the other shooting -- a drive-by -- was less than two miles away, according to San Diego police.

Police have yet to confirm any gang ties, but both shootings took place in known gang areas. Across the city, gang violence continues to surge, police said.

"It's unacceptable. It's unacceptable that it happens in our beautiful city," said San Diego Police Department Assistant Chief Boyd Long.

According to police, in 2012, gang violence in the city was up 34 percent from 2011, while gang-related homicides jumped from 7 percent to 16 percent -- an increase of 129 percent.

Long said one factor is the state's prison realignment, which has resulted in early release for some 1,000 inmates locally.

"Many of them will reoffend again or rejoin gangs, and that drives the crime rate up in the area," said Long.

Christopher Yanov heads Reality Changers, http://realitychangers.org, which provides tutoring and scholarships for many at-risk youth. He said gang violence, once started, can become difficult to stop.

"When somebody gets hurt, they feel like they have to do something in response, and that doesn't up end good for anybody," said Yanov.

When gang violence spiked in August and October 2012, police responded with extra manpower.   

"I don't know if it's sustainable and problematic; [the] thing is, it's probably not," said Long.

That problem could be addressed in 2013, with the expected hiring of more than 30 officers.

Police also plan to be more proactive in soliciting gang-related tips -- including tips through social media.

A new computer application using maps and crime numbers will be used to predict where violence may occur and where patrols should end up.

Police also stressed they'll be working with agencies like probation to make sure inmates released early will be connected with resources to keep them out of gangs.

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