WINTERS (CBS13) — Caught in the crosshairs of gang violence, Winters has become a hideout for gang members looking to lay low.
Three Norteño gang members were recently detained after they brandished loaded weapons in the City of Davis and fled to Winters. It's the most recent gang-related arrest in a string of gang incidents in the small town.
Neighbors like Chuck Pearce are frustrated with the recent activity.
"If there's any gang bangers in the town of Winters. Dude, nobody wants you here. Just go somewhere else. Leave," Pearce said.
Since July, local police have pulled an unprecedented five guns off of known gang members.
"Previous four years we have not recovered a single firearm," Winters Police Chief John Miller said.
Miller said that local crews seem to be using his unsuspecting town as quiet place to lay low.
"What we are seeing is them committing crimes in other jurisdictions and then fleeing to Winters," Miller said.
Chief Miller says he is doing what he can to prevent gangs from laying claim to the town.
"You'll see competing gangs crossing out each other's gang markings trying to compete for the territories. When we see gang-related graffiti pop up we address it," Miller said.
But a recent arrest shook Winters to its core. After three people who brandished weapons in the city of Davis ended up there.
"The adult male who was arrested was a validated Norteño gang member out of one of our neighboring cities. All three occupants were validated gang members," Miller said.
Chief Miller says it was 20-year-old Jeremy Nguyen driving the vehicle and two newly initiated Norteños, both teenagers.
With places like community centers and school campuses closed, there's growing concern gang recruiters could more easily target young people.
"Just like anybody else they're networking. Now we have things like social media, it's easier for them to connect," Dal Dulai with the Yolo County gang task force said.
Dulai is keeping a close eye on the gang activity.
"There's always been gang members throughout Yolo County but it's starting to show more now," Dulai said.
But long time Winters resident Jed Hawkins says Winters was always the exception.
"The fact that those kids are running around with guns is disturbing," Hawkins said.
The Yolo County task force says they're working to educate young people on what to look out for when it comes to how these local gangs may be targeting them for recruitment.
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