Gang confrontations on the rise in Royal City

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ROYAL CITY — Confrontations between rival gangs are starting to heat up in Royal City, said Royal City Police Chief Darin Smith, evidenced by an increase of gang graffiti and drive-by shootings between two rival factions of the Sureños gang, West 18th Street and the South Side Locos.

The most recent drive-by occurred during the night Sept. 12 on the 400 block of Juniper Circle, Smith said, though no calls came into the police as the incident occurred. When police later arrived, they found dozens of bullet holes in a number of houses, including at least one that passed through multiple rooms, though no injuries were reported.

“Our assumption is that it’s gang-related, as some of the people who live in one of the houses, the one that got shot 13 times, have some gang affiliations,” Smith said.

Several locations were tagged with graffiti by West 18th Street on the night of the shooting, Smith said.

“We’re just putting two and two together,” Smith continued.

In addition, a building near the scene of the shooting was tagged with graffiti that read “South Side Loco” and “Snitch Killa,” Smith said, indicating that local gangs are trying to suppress local cooperation with the police.

“The only thing I can think of is a broad message to the neighborhood: don’t talk with the police,” Smith said.

The drive-by occurred in a well-populated area, Smith said – but almost no one reported the incident, demonstrating the strained relationship between law enforcement and that community. Getting the community to trust law enforcement has always been difficult for Royal City police, Smith said, and efforts by gangs to frighten residents further hamper those efforts.

“The fact that 19 gun shots can be fired and nobody calls it in at the time, that’s a problem that makes our job difficult,” Smith said. “But I understand where they’re coming from. They have families to think about, and if these guys are willing to just drive by and shoot up houses, they’re putting themselves and their families at risk if they talk to the police.”

Smith suggests that residents who want to report police activity anonymously should leave a tip with the dispatch center or with the police department.

“They can even drop a note off in the payment slot at City Hall,” Smith said.

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