Chico police are starting to see a lot more gang violence – enough to reinstate the now-defunct gang unit by pulling resources in other areas.
The department closed the gang unit six months ago because they simply didn't have enough people on the force. Although their numbers have not changed, their strategy has.
“Right now our priority is staffing that gang unit,” said Lt. Mike O’Brien.
O’Brien told us Wednesday that trend is forcing the department to make some creative and tough decisions.
“With a little creative staffing, we were able to put together a gang unit with a little bit of a different format from what we had originally,” said O’Brien.
Chico police will take their three school resources officers and put them back into patrol and take two officers out of patrol to work as the department's gang unit.
“You really need dedicated officers who can focus and concentrate their efforts on that gang activity,” said O’Brien.
But the plan is not sitting well with some parents.
“It's worrisome,” said Michell Hunn, a Pleasant Valley High parent. “I think it's a great idea to have an officer here for minor or major problems and I also think it brings a presence of calm to parents knowing somebody is on campus.”
Chico police point out they have to get the problem of gang violence under control. They do not want to see it get out of hand-like it did back in 2011, when gang violence reached a peak.
“We are starting to see that same thing develop again,” said O’Brien.
Chico State student Abby Crowley said she supports the decision.
“It's good to put more force or manpower to patrolling something they see as a problem,” said Crowley.
Crowley has spent the last four years at Chico State getting her degree in communications. She is among many who think having more officers on the street is important.
“I think there needs to be more police patrolling in downtown in general. It's scary walking home as a girl and feeling completely unsafe. If that will help the violence stop I think that's a good thing,” said Crowley.
The gang unit will be in full force on June 2. Chico police say they are confident the three high schools losing officers here in Chico will still be protected.