SANTA ROSA, Calif. - Gang violence was the main topic at a crime prevention meeting in Santa Rosa Tuesday night that brought together police, violence prevention groups, and concerned members of the public.
"This is a tragedy that’s bringing us here. But what I’ve seen from my experience is this is also a moment of opportunity for us that we can come together," Police Chief John Cregan said.
Cregan said early prevention is vital to preventing crime.
Over the past 10 days, two 15 year-olds were killed and teens as young as 14 were arrested.
Police made seven arrests in these latest shootings. They just announced the arrest 21-year-old Kobi Benjamin from Santa Rosa, who police believe was the shooter in the June 16 homicide.
Christopher Mahurin, a lieutenant with Santa Rosa police, said Benjamin fled to Las Vegas after gunning down the young victim in a parking lot of an apartment complex.
"Las Vegas Metro Police were able to locate that suspect and take him into custody. So he is now in jail in Las Vegas awaiting extradition to come back to Sonoma County," Mahurin said.
Officials said they can’t arrest their way out of the problem, though and need the city's help.
Santa Rosa is crafting new violence prevention efforts, which includes having a full-time gang crime team, and working with youth, schools, and parents. Police say some of the incidents start as fights on school campuses between rival gangs.
"We have always had a gang issue especially since the early 2000s, in particular between the Norteñas and Sureños which are the common gangs we have in Sonoma County," said Lt. Mahurin. "Those are the two gangs that have been fighting in the past couple of weeks. We are seeing those tensions rise."
Police are also trying to get illegal firearms off the streets including ghost guns, and said this year alone, 125 have been confiscated.