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Watsonville Gun Show

By Jessica Lussenhop

A few weeks ago Watsonville's newly minted police chief, Manny Solano, presented the Watsonville City Council with a statistical synopsis of crime in 2009. The good news: overall crime dropped about 6 percent, and violent crime dropped 7 percent. The bad news: aggravated assault with a firearm (basically any shooting that doesn't end in death), which tripled in 2008, inched upward again in 2009 by 2 percent. Sgt. Saul Gonzalez explains the increase this way: "Most likely a lot of prison gang members are ordering violence in the street," he says. He also says that WPD is just seeing more guns, period. "The majority are stolen," he says. "Those guns are distributed within the criminal element, and they travel all over the state."

The last year also saw a large spike in violent gang-motivated crime; 41 percent more incidents than in 2008. Gonzalez says some of that jump is because officers are better at knowing when to classify a crime as "gang-motivated," but he also concedes that "we're seeing a lot younger gang members committing more violent crimes. That just seems like a trend; as years go on, the members get younger and more violent."

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