Gang membership, violence up in Yuma area

Det. Robby Rosas of the Yuma Police Department’s special gang unit attributes the growth in gangs in the Yuma area to several factors including, the three strikes law in California, active recruiting by area gangs, and more and more teens from migrant worker families staying in Yuma with relatives instead of going back to Salinas, Calif., when the harvesting season ends.

While street gangs are nothing new to the Yuma area, Det. Robby Rosas, of the Yuma Police Department’s special gang unit, says the violence associated with them has escalated over the years.

“Back in the day people used to just punch each other until they couldn’t breathe anymore, now there are little kids shooting at each other,” Rosas said.

Rosas said while the number of gangs and the membership within them change frequently, there are currently about 50 to 60 active street gangs in the Yuma area — with a low estimate of about 3,500 members.

“Yes it is a lot,” Rosas said. “We put one guy away and two more are trying to fill his spot.”

In addition to YPD’s special gang unit, which has two Border Patrol agents assigned to it, the Arizona Department of Public Safety also operates its Gang and Immigration Intelligence Team Enforcement Mission (GIITEM) in Yuma to curtail gang activity in the area.

But gangs aren’t the only problem. Sgt. Jeff Ruby added that while most of the local motorcycle clubs are not considered outlaw motorcycle gangs, there are about 10 in the Yuma area that are known to associate with the Hells Angels and Vagos, which are known to be currently feuding with one another.


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