A recent increase in street violence in East Palo Alto and Menlo Park has prompted police in both cities to launch a coordinated anti-crime effort. More than a dozen shootings since late summer have been linked to ongoing tensions between the East Palo Alto-based “DaVill” gang and its rival the “Taliban,” which is primarily based in Menlo Park, according to police. The spike in violence between the two gangs has prompted the creation of a violence reduction strategy called Operation SMART, or the Strategic Multi-Agency Response Team. East Palo Alto Police Chief Ron Davis said today that police officers from Menlo Park, East Palo Alto and Palo Alto have already started sharing intelligence, financial resources and manpower in a multi-pronged approach to investigating current cases and preventing more violence.
Davis said Operation SMART will include “call-ins,” or meetings, with gang members. The meetings will also be attended by community activists, faith leaders, service providers and police. “We call them into a meeting and send a very unified message from the community of stopping the violence,” Davis said. “We want to provide alternatives.” Davis said a similar effort in 2011 targeted the Norteno and Sureno gangs in East Palo Alto, and the result was a notable decrease in violence, though he believes both groups are still criminally active. “What makes this more unique is that the last effort was really just in East Palo Alto, Davis said. “This is rooted in multiple cities.” The DaVill and Taliban call-ins are tentatively scheduled for January, according to police.
Another facet of Operation SMART is a deeper analysis of the social networks of individual gang members and their victims. That aspect of the program is aimed at identifying possible future targets of violence and ongoing criminal patterns, Davis said. “That way it’s not just reacting, it’s understanding the links between networks,” he said. Davis said Operation SMART also aims to pool intelligence and coordinate investigations between detectives from several agencies, including the San Mateo County Gang Task Force, the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Gang Intelligence Unit and the San Mateo County Narcotics Task Force. “We’re looking for maximum effect,” he said.
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