In response to an escalating number of gang-related, violent crimes in southeastern San Diego neighborhoods, police announced at a press conference Thursday that they have increased patrols in the area and contacted community leaders about the trend.

Police said crime has especially escalated around Lincoln Park, Southcrest and Mountain View, where detectives say two gang-related deaths occurred in April. The deaths and other violence have caused confusion among gangs about who was involved and spurred retaliatory crimes in the area, police said.

“We’re going to eliminate that retaliation,” Assistant Chief Boyd Long said. “We have to stop it.”

Although gangs have long been a concern in southeastern San Diego neighborhoods, gang violence has been declining in recent years as has violent crime across the city.

Police attributed four murders to gangs last year, five fewer than the previous year and 17 fewer than the year before that. But so far this year, police count six gang-related murders and are concerned the violence could further escalate.

In southeastern neighborhoods, Long said police would beef up weekend patrols, assign more gang detectives to the area and send more officers from other parts of the city if necessary. He declined to say how many officers would be moved.

Police held a two-hour meeting Wednesday with community leaders in southeastern neighborhoods, including City Councilman Tony Young, to discuss the trend and how they could help. Long said residents could patrol their neighborhood or call police if they have information about any of the recent crimes.

On April 11, Derek Peppers, 40, was shot in the chest while standing outside a liquor store on Ocean View Boulevard in Mountain View. After several gunshots, a tan-colored sedan sped off and several people who were with Peppers fled before police arrived. Peppers later died in a hospital.

A week later, seven blocks east, Christopher Dunn, 28, was shot from the passenger door of a white Honda Accord, police say. He later died in a hospital, too.

Homicide detectives are investigating both deaths. To contact police, call 619.531.2293 or to contact Crime Stoppers, call 888.580.8477.

Area residents also plan to hold a peace rally today at 5 p.m., starting at the intersection of Euclid and Imperial.

How’s public safety in your neighborhood? Please contact Keegan Kyle directly at keegan.kyle@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5668 and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/keegankyle.

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