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VENTURA COUNTY ROUNDUP | West County / PORT HUENEME

Police Unit Focuses on Gang-Related Crime

October 07, 1998|HOLLY J. WOLCOTT

In the wake of two gang shootings in the city since August, police officials have formed a new unit to handle gang-related crimes and create prevention plans.

Dets. Christina Alvarez and Paul Gomez, who have a combined 20 years of service with the Port Hueneme Police Department, are now the Specialized Enforcement Detail, Lt. Fernando Estrella said Tuesday. They begin their new assignments Oct. 14.

"It's not just enforcement, we want them to form bonds with people who have chosen that lifestyle," Estrella said.

Community-based policing and helping gang members contact social agencies will be part of the job.

"You can't expect someone to make decisions without options," the lieutenant said of alternatives to gang life.

There has been a rise in gang-related assaults in this city of nearly 23,000 people, Estrella said. In one case, a 22-year-old man was shot by a gang member in a crowded Taco Bell in late August, Estrella said. The victim survived, but the case remains unsolved.

Although Port Hueneme has only one established gang with less than a dozen members, more than 150 Port Hueneme residents claim affiliation with several gangs based in Oxnard, Estrella said.

Oxnard gangs have become bigger and stronger, and gang members from both cities are getting younger and more violent, Estrella said.

Residents interested in learning more about what police are doing to combat gang-related crime and how community members can help are invited to a meeting at 7 p.m. Oct. 19 at the Port Hueneme Community Center.

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