Tulare County has
emerged in recent years as fertile ground for a growing gang population.
The level of violence has escalated as the resources devoted to law
enforcement have shrunk. Drive-by shootings have brought great community
sorrow and attention to this matter. The number of gang-related cases
prosecuted by the
Office of the District Attorney increases each year. In
response, the Gang Violence Suppression Unit was created to target gangs
and gang leaders in particular. Experienced and trained prosecutors are
assigned to this program and case loads are reduced so the attorney can
focus maximum attention on program cases. Currently, three deputy
district attorneys and a Supervising Attorney serving as Gang
Coordinator, are assigned to this program. In addition, two designated
criminal investigators are members of the Gang Suppression Unit.
One of the goals of the Gang Violence Suppression Unit is to serve gang
members with S.T.E.P. Act notification. The Street Terrorism Enforcement
and Prevention Act is an allegation of gang activity that, if found true
at trial, increases prison time by up to three years.
Once a gang has been identified and the requisite number of crimes has
been established, police agencies throughout the county submit
information to the
Office of the District Attorney regarding gang members.
The information consists of the gang member's name, moniker, identifying
tattoos and the date, time and name of the law enforcement officer to
whom he/she admitted gang membership. Currently, members of numerous
gangs have been served with S.T.E.P. Act notifications in
and the number is steadily increasing.
In 1998, the District
Attorney was joined by the Sheriff and Chief Probation Officer in
forming a special anti-gang program that will join with city police
departments and members of community based organizations including
churches to eradicate gangs from