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Gang violence sparks residents’ concerns

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Auburn residents are rightfully concerned about recent gang violence in the Auburn Greens. Last week 25 people were involved in a brawl that left five with stab wounds, one who may lose a hand and others with facial injuries from blunt-force trauma. Combatants fought with knives, pipes and baseball bats. Last Wednesday night many learned that Auburn is not the safe haven we thought it was. Violent gangs are active within our midst. Though just one woman has been arrested so far, Lt. Jeff Ausnow of the Placer County Sheriff’s Department said more arrests are forthcoming. He said language barriers, and the gang code of silence, impede investigation efforts, but he felt strongly that diligent police work will pay off. “I expect several more arrests,” he said Tuesday. With no apparent witnesses eager to talk, it is difficult to sort out what happened. The one woman arrested claims she was fleeing for her life when she ran down several would-be attackers with her car. What is not hard to see, however, is that our community is outraged that this type of crime could happen in Auburn. But Lt. Ausnow said it isn’t as bad as it could be. Yes, he agreed there are those who live among us who are affiliated with gangs like the Norteños and Sureños. Yes, this was a serious incident, Ausnow said. “But it is not like it’s East L.A.” where there is gang graffiti everywhere and gang activity daily. “Auburn Greens has taken a hit,” he said. “That doesn’t mean it’s a bad place or there is a gang problem. ... It’s not running rampant.” Few, if any witnesses want to come forward, fearing the wrath of gangsters and their associates. That hampers investigators. “Because of the gang involvement – Norteños and Sureños – they are not very forthcoming,” Ausnow said. Many questions remain. Is Regional Park and the Auburn Greens area safe for women, children, seniors and other law-abiding citizens? Ausnow seemed to think this was an isolated incident, but patrols have no doubt been stepped up. Are residents concerned? Unmistakably. More than 3,700 readers have viewed the recent online article, “Gangs suspected in fight at Greens.” The story has generated much debate, as well, with more than 75 commenting at auburnjournal.com. Dozens of these comments border on racism. That does not reflect the best and brightest of our citizenry. Nor does hate-filled speech help solve the problem. Some comments were blatantly racist. Those were flagged as inappropriate by readers and staff and immediately taken down. But it’s not just those commenting online who are concerned. Almost everyone has an opinion. Wherever you go around Auburn, people are talking about the Auburn Greens gang incident. Some homeowners say, perhaps rightfully, that the Greens is being unfairly targeted and maligned. Many nice families and hard-working people call the Greens home. They deserve protection. And racism is exactly what will further divide us at a time when we need to be united behind local law enforcement. Auburn has been a relatively safe community. Thanks largely to the efforts of the Sheriff’s Department and Auburn Police, residents live peacefully and go about their daily lives without fear. It is too early to judge whether the melee last Wednesday night is indicative of things to come. The Sheriff’s Department says arrests are forthcoming. That should offer some relief for residents who are anxious for answers.