A growing Sureño gang presence in the typically Norteño city has generated an increase in gang-related crime ranging from graffiti to some violent attacks.
The growth of a Sureño gang in South San Francisco, part of a trend also seen in other parts of the county, appears to have increased rivalry activities between the two gangs, said city and county officials. Sureño gangs are part of a criminal organization with roots traditionally in Southern California, while Norteños have traditionally been Northern California-based.
Officials said this marked an increase from 2005, when the northern San Mateo County city saw 468 gang-related cases between March and December 2005, the period covered by the current computerized reporting system.
Only 3 percent of the city’s gang-related cases this year were violent acts: 14 assaults, nine assaults with a deadly weapon other than a firearm and three drive-by shootings. There have been no gang-related homicides in the past two years.
However, in the most notable outbreak of violence so far, South San Francisco Police recently arrested six gang members after a Dec. 3 fight on Linden Avenue resulted in two people being stabbed. Police suspect a drive-by shooting later that night at a residence on Linden Avenue is related to the fight.
Cpl. Ken Hancock said that South San Francisco used to be a Norteño town but that the gang’s dominance, and threats and intimidation directed toward newcomers, ironically caused some to shy away and find acceptance with the Sureños.
The police department tracks graffiti in the area by having each officer carry a digital camera, and South San Francisco Police Chief Mark Raffaelli said that the graffiti is taking on a "Sureño flavor to it."
"When you have two factions, and one starts to increase, the potential for violence also increases with that," Raffaelli said.
In its surveillance the police department is focusing on specific areas, including downtown, the Westborough neighborhood, the 500 block of Baden Avenue and Susie Way, that have seen concentrated gang violence, he said.
The recent violence and increase in crime has generated a multi-agency response from the county’s Gang Intelligence Unit, the County Gang Task Force, the county’s Probation Department,California parole and Immigration Customs Enforcement.
The city also works closely with local schools in an effort to educate students against the hazards of gang life, as younger children appear to be exposed earlier to the influence of gangs than once was the case.