“Operation Take Back,” an anti-violence effort in Santa Cruz County, netted 43 arrests over a two-week span, authorities said. In response to a wave of violent crime in the region, the Santa Cruz County Law Enforcement Chiefs Association authorized the operation on Feb. 21, calling on local police agencies to supplement the Santa Cruz County Gang Task Force.
The operation was set to launch on Feb. 27, and despite the fatal shooting of two Santa Cruz police officers on Feb. 26, the operation was launched as scheduled, gang task force officials said. Personnel conducting Operation Take Back included police officers from Watsonville, Santa Cruz, Scotts Valley and Capitola, and members of the Santa Cruz County Anti-Crime Team, Santa Cruz Probation Department, and the California Highway Patrol.
Of the 43 arrests made during the 14-day operation, 27 were for felonies and 16 for misdemeanors, according to the gang task force. Twelve of those arrested were on parole, and 26 had gang associations. Eight of the arrests were of juveniles, all with gang associations, task force officials said. Three of the juveniles were arrested in connection with the recent stabbing murder of 20-year-old Felipe Reyes in Watsonville.
Another juvenile and an adult with gang affiliations were arrested while attempting to flee the scene of a violent gang assault of a non-gang-involved victim on Feb. 28 in front of a Valero gas station in Watsonville, according to the task force. Over the course of the operation, officers seized 10 weapons — three firearms, five illegal knives and two blunt weapons. Six search warrants were served, including three in relation to the Reyes murder and one that resulted in the seizure of two guns and the arrest of a drug trafficker, task force officials said.
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