WATSONVILLE -- Forty-three suspects were arrested on suspicion of 27 felonies during Operation Take Back, a two-week enforcement effort of the Santa Cruz County Gang Task Force.
The task force helped Watsonville police investigate and arrest four suspects in the Feb. 28 stabbing death of 20-year-old Felipe Reyes, as well as three suspects in a gang-motivated belt-buckle beating outside a Watsonville gas station.
"We were very busy," Gang Task Force Cmdr. Mario Sulay said Wednesday.
"In response to a particularly violent first two months of the new year," Sulay said, the operation aimed to "maximize proactive enforcement."
Police from Watsonville, Santa Cruz, Capitola and Scotts Valley worked with the California Highway Patrol, Santa Cruz County Probation, Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office and the Santa Cruz County Anti-Crime team on the effort. It started Feb. 27 and ended March 13.
At least three of the seven homicides in the county this year have been classified by police as gang-motivated.
Some of the operation's more significant arrests came after the Feb. 28 beating outside of a gas station on the 1100 block of Main Street in Watsonville. They were able to respond quickly in part because they had more officers on patrol, Sulay said.
The belt-buckle attack was gang-motivated, but it was unclear what started it, Sulay said. The victim declined to go to a hospital.
Two men and a 17-year-old boy, all of Watsonville, were arrested near the scene. Nicholas Anthony Orona, 21, Ernesto Barboza Rivas, 21, and the 17-year-old were arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon with gang enhancements, Sulay said.
Authorities have not identified the 17-year-old because he is a minor.
A fourth man, Gabriel Delcampo, was arrested on suspicion of the same charges after a March 6 search of his home on San Juan Road in Pajaro, Sulay said.
During the two-week operation, Task Force members also apprehended 12 suspects on suspicion of probation and parole violations, 26 suspects with gang associations and 16 suspects for misdemeanor offenses.
Authorities said they seized three guns, five knives and two "blunt weapons" during the effort.
The Gang Task Force plans to crack down again if crime flares up, Sulay said.
"Any time that things spark back up like that, we will come up with a plan to address it," he said.
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OPERATION TAKE BACK
From Feb. 27 to March 13, the Santa Cruz County Gang Task Force logged the following arrests and seizures.
FELONY ARRESTS: 27
MISDEMEANOR ARRESTS: 16
PROBATION OR PAROLE VIOLATIONS: 12
JUVENILE ARRESTS: 8
GUNS SEIZED: 3
ILLEGAL KNIVES SEIZED: 5
BLUNT WEAPONS SEIZED: 2
TOTAL ARRESTS: 43
SOURCE: Santa Cruz County Gang Task Force