Local

Dismantling a Reedley Gang

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Members of the Varrio East Side Reedley Gang are now forbidden from associating with each other. A Fresno County Judge issued a preliminary injunction Wednesday afternoon. Reedley Police plan to immediately step up enforcement because some people fear for their lives.

Joe Olvera spends a lot of time keeping his yard in good shape despite constant gang graffiti. Down the street, fences are covered with evidence of gangs marking their territory. The reporter asked, "Does Reedley have a gang problem?" Olvera answered, "Yes, I'm sure they do. Like I said there's been some killings in here in the last month or so and it's been gang related, so we do have a problem."

Two blocks over, someone shot and killed a man in his own driveway. Officers say the January murder was clearly gang related. To break up the Varrio East Side Reedley Gang, the Fresno County District Attorney's Office headed to court on Wednesday. The judge declared the Varrio Gang a public nuisance. He issued a preliminary injunction impacting the gang's turf located in a South East Reedley neighborhood- now considered a safe zone. It's bordered by Dinuba, Buttonwillow, Springfield and East Avenues. Reedley's Police Chief Steve Wright says the ruling is a big boost, "It gives them a tool to not allow them to go anywhere together in the safe zone. That neighborhood we declared a safe zone doesn't allow them to group up, gang up."

23-year-old Frank Palato went to court to get his name off the injunction. Palato said he left the gang years ago, "When I went to this program, I changed my life around." But the judge kept Palato's name on the list telling him to stay away from the Varrio East Side.

If gang members violate the injunction, they could face criminal and civil penalties. More hearings will be scheduled to make the injunction permanent.

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