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Police Chief Says City Doesn’t Need Gang Unit

Perez tells Public Safety Committee unit would not have prevented current violence

Published on Wednesday, January 20, 2021 | 10:21 am
Pasadena Police Chief John Perez

Pasadena Police Chief John Perez on Tuesday told the City Council’s Public Safety Committee that the department did not need to restart the gang unit to help combat the current gun violence plaguing the city. 

“We are taking an approach based on intelligence,” Perez said. “We are putting people where they need to be to stop violence. Violence reduction is the approach.”

Perez said that for decades the gang unit’s approach to stopping gang violence was getting out of their cars and asking Black and Brown kids if they were in gangs, which led to trauma in those communities.  

“We are out there and we are doing policing,” Perez said. “I don’t think we need the gang unit to be running around like it did in the past. The gang unit would not have stopped the current spate of violence.”

In an oral report to the committee, Perez 288 firearms were confiscated by officers in 2020, a 27% increase from the number of weapons seized in 2019.

There were 59 non-fatal shootings last year which left 28 people injured. 

“I don’t think we have the opportunity to get back to square one anymore. We have to dig in,” said Councilman Tyron Hampton, a member of the committee.  

But Pasadena is not the only city struggling with violent crime. Last year, the nation experienced a 35% increase in violent crime, the largest in modern history. 

“We cannot take two or three years of this increase,” Perez said.

Hard-to-trace ghost guns, or privately constructed weapons that lack serial numbers and other identifying characteristics, also remain a serious issue.

The majority of all the weapons confiscated were seized from vehicles. 

“It is so disheartening,” said Council and Committee member Steve Madison. “We need some paradigm shift that has to be grassroots in the community. These kids are joining gangs as a form of family and identity.”

Madison agreed that the department needed to continue to think outside of the box.

“The immediate is about stopping the shootings, but what happens next?” said City Manager Steve Mermell. 

Mayor Victor Gordo said the department and the city have to continue working toward breaking vicious cycles of violence.

“At the moment, we are continuing the intervention and prevention,” Gordo said. “The longer-term is going to be about breaking the cycle.”

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