DELANO, Calif. — In the span of just over a month, two young people have been murdered and several others have been injured in shootings in Delano.
"We don't buy into the notion that it’s a dangerous gang plagued city," said Chief Robert Nevarez.
Though the city is surrounded by gang territories, chief Nevarez says violence will not be tolerated.
“Criminals need to know that law enforcement is always there and always working on ways to find those responsible for crimes and bring them to justice,” he said.
So far in 2020, the city has seen the murders of two young people. On January 2, 19-year-old Nayeli Carrillo Gonzalez was killed as Cesar Chavez Park. On January 31, 21-year-old Adam Rene Guillen was shot and killed near County Line Rd. and Hiett Ave.
"Adam wasn't just anybody. Everybody knew Adam. He was special," said Destiny Gonzalez, Adam's cousin. "And now we have to put him in the ground."
Those murders followed the 8 homicides in Delano in 2019. DPD says while last year did see a drop in homicides from the previous year, there was a rise in gang related shootings, from 20 in 2018 to 23 in 2019.
“Fortunately for us, oftentimes the difference between an assault with a deadly weapon or an attempt murder and a murder is a matter of inches because of the round and where it lands on a persons body,” said Nevarez.
In a city the size of Delano, Chief Nevarez says the amount of violence is simply too high.
“It’s still way too many for a city of our size. It’s a city of just over 50,000 people that shouldn’t have 8 murders in a year. That is just not acceptable,” he said.
He adds that what is even more challenging for the department, is the nature of the murders in Delano.
“Lack of witnesses, lack of evidence, that is the biggest challenge for us in all of those cases,” said Nevarez.
The six most recent homicides in the city are unsolved.
“I believe that the biggest obstacle to solving a lot of our violent crimes is fear,” said Nevarez.
“Realistically for a lot of people in our community, they are fearful of retaliation in the event that they come forward.”
Which is why Chief Nevarez says this year the department will be focusing on aspects like response times.
“The best time to solve a crime is by getting there when the suspects are still on the scene. When there is still evidence that’s fresh at the scene such as bullet casings, finger prints.” said Nevarez.
In 2019, Nevarez says life or death response times were lowered to six minutes and one second.
“We lowered our response times to those calls by nearly 50 percent. That said we want to make sure that we lower that number more than we even hit last year,” he added.
Cheif Nevarez says you can expect to continue seeing a saturation of gang unit officers on the streets.
Officer Darian Santaella is part of the gang unit. He grew up in Delano and says that now that he is behind the badge, he realizes how complex the issue of violence actually is.
"I lived here all my life and I didn't know that Delano was so infested with gangs," said Santaella. "They are trying to claim territory, trying to show that they are for the cause and that they will do anything for their gang."
Chief Nevarez says you will also see more operations targeting parole and probation violators. An operation in early December resulted in 18 arrests and two weapons and 24 ounces of methamphetamine off the streets.
“In the week following through the end of the year, we didn't have another murder. In fact our number of shootings dropped significantly,” said Nevarez.
This month, you will also see an effort go before city council to get cameras place in public places in Delano.
“It would be another piece of the puzzle that would hopefully help our solvability of certain cases,” said Nevarez.
The department is proposing about 20 cameras costing about $160,000 per year. Nevarez says they would be placed in high crime areas and along paths often traveled after crimes are committed, like the 99 freeway which cuts through the middle of the city giving criminals an easy exit path.
While Nevarez says he understands the idea may be met with hesitation for privacy reasons, he believes it's a secure option that is still flexible to crime trends.
“It would be accessible by the members of the Delano Police Department, a person with a username and password, because those cameras can be modified in their movement. They have pan, tilt, zoom capabilities and so members of our department would be able to in a matter that we felt is most appropriate and also retrieve the data from the video evidence that it collects,” said Nevarez. “We need some technological advances to help us be able to solve those crimes.”
The proposal for the cameras is expected to go before the Delano City Council on February 18.