ESCONDIDO, Calif. (KGTV) - Nearly 8 months after an Escondido woman was killed in the crossfire of a gang shooting, Escondido police say the community is more involved than ever in fighting the gang problem.
"The community has stepped up," Escondido police Chief Craig Carter told 10News in an email. "It has been noticed and appreciated."
Carter said he met last month with 35 faith-based leaders to talk about the gang problem. They discussed ways in increase mentorship programs and prevention strategies to keep kids from joining gangs.
Meanwhile, the police department's Gang Unit, which includes detectives and street level officers known as the Gang Enforcement Team, have been actively working to identify known/suspected gang members.
The problem came into sharp focus on March 7, 2017. That day, Catherine Kennedy, 55, was shot and killed while driving home from a church meeting. She was caught in a crossfire between rival gang members on Grand Avenue outside of the Pepperwood Meadows apartment complex.
Two men, an unidentified 16-year-old and 24-year-old Dionicio Crespin Torrez, were arrested and charged with murder in the shooting. Torrez is scheduled to appear at a preliminary hearing Tuesday.
In May, Escondido police and a handful of other local law enforcement agencies announced a gang sweep that resulted in more than a dozen arrests .
Since then, the focus of law enforcement work has been education and community involvement.
The department has worked with Escondido Education COMPACT to reach at risk children. Two programs, "Family Intervention Teams," and "Girls Rock" try to steer the kids away from gangs.
Police say the number of known gang members hasn't changed. It's still around 450. But, they say that's not uncommon, because of the amount of time it takes to either add or remove someone from documented gang status.
Meanwhile, crime stats from ARGIS show a mixed bag of crime trends across Escondido when comparing the six months before and after the shooting.
The total number of crimes is down, from 1,725 to 1,528. So is violent crime, 277 to 246. But burglaries are up, 190 to 230. Also, the number of murders rose from 1 to 2, including Kennedy's.