I don’t want to alarm anyone and the fact remains that Paso Robles – for the most part – is somewhat isolated by what goes on in the big cities a couple hundred miles away. However, the truth is, we do have crime on the Central Coast. And in case folks think we’re just a sleepy little town, we had a gang-related shooting. Yes, even in the cold of winter, the idyllic town of Paso in wine country has a little nastiness of big city life pop up here on an occasion.
I’m one of the first to expound on living in bucolic Paso Robles as just about life in paradise. Having lived a majority of my life in the Los Angeles area, I know of what I speak. On one hand, it’s not naive to think we can have a quiet life in charming Paso Robles. Heck, you can go almost anywhere in San Luis Obispo County and find the finer pleasures of a great and relatively calm lifestyle. Yet, it’s inconceivable to believe crime doesn’t live amongst the rolling countryside of North County.
Monsters to the north and south
We like to mention often how we sit in a much less populated region between two giant metropolises: Los Angeles and San Francisco. However, that’s part of the problem. Less than four hours south lies roughly 20 million people in the Greater L.A. area and just over three hours north is the Bay Area and nearly 10 million congregate there. Obviously, there will be some influence even though we have large expanses between these two behemoths.
With urban monsters like these comes crime and gangs, which is part-and-parcel to what could be happening here on the Central Coast. The Golden State has a natural rivalry between Southern and Northern California. In sports, there’s nothing as big as the antagonistic battle between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants. Nevertheless, a lesser known but more violent rivalry is between gangs from these two regions. This isn’t Westside Story.
In the south, Southerners or Surenos, have a stronghold in Los Angeles and actually can now be found throughout the nation. They are essentially tied to the Mexico mob and the mafioso-type organizations there. Still, when they try to move north though, they run into the Northerners or Nortenos. Yeah, I know, not very original.
The Nortenos are based in more rural towns and otherwise were formed in the Salinas area (some say Folsom, near Sacramento) but are spread out through the northern half of the state and into the Pacific Northwest. The two gangs are run from the prisons of California and have a deep-seated hatred for the other.
Who controls what?
The dividing line for these gangs has been noted as Bakersfield in the southern San Joaquin Valley, but since the coastal area of Central California (i.e. San Luis Obispo County) is sparsely populated, the lines blur and are potentially an area of concern though the North County is considered Surenos influenced. Note Monterey County is controlled by Northerners and the two counties butt-up just 10 miles away from Paso Robles.
Having said all this, the crime reports here in Paso Robles can be laughable. There are certain days that go by with basically no crimes reported. Yet, that wasn’t the case on a cool early Tuesday morning that otherwise was a quiet and very nice part of southeastern Paso Robles. Gunfire erupted on Sycamore Canyon Road (source: KSBY).
The police say it’s gang-related and while there were multiple shots fired by the assailant, luckily no one was shot – there were some cars damaged. It’s not known if this is a turf war or not, so my elongated description above may or may not be applicable. Still, gangs are a problem and this instance reminds us that we as a city need to be attentive to any perceived escalation.
Gangs such as Chivas are common in the Greater L.A. region.
I remember reading an article a few years back and it noted how a solid majority of Paso Robles officials felt there wasn’t a gang problem in the town. That was shortly after a drive-by shooting that summer with county sheriffs talking about dramatic increases overall in crime. During that same period, a huge brawl in a bar in San Miguel – a small town just north of Paso – was caused by drugs and gangs. Purportedly law enforcement is in control and the city does an excellent job of fighting graffiti, while keeping distance between the gangs and the citizenry. Ah, but let’s face it, this isn’t L.A.
I owned a classic car restoration business in Norwalk and for a time, the city was known as having more gangs members per capita than anywhere else in the country. The gangs around our shop were rivals with the notorious Chivas’ who were always a worry. It was a war zone. Don’t believe me? Look it up – here’s just one of many stories written about the infamous area (L.A. Times). From personal experience, during the middle of a work week, I heard a big bang and went out to the edge of the street to see what was going on. I guess God had something else in mind because a bullet whizzed by head, just missing me. That’s life in the big city. That’s not Paso Robles.
Regardless, Paso is a fast-growing town and likely will become the largest in the county within the next couple decades. With growth comes growing pains and certainly gangs will be sniffing around with shootings like the one yesterday popping up every once in awhile. This will continue to remind us we must be vigilant.
Okay, that’s it. No more to see here. Don’t want to be a Debbie Downer – just living life realistically with my eyes wide open. Now back to your regularly scheduled glass of wine, as most of us wait for winter to be done with.
Additional sources: Barrio Gangs: Street Life and Identity in Southern California, The Detective’s Guide: California Prisons, Prison Gangs, and Parolees
Daryle W. Hier