After seeing 10 homicides in the first three months of this year, the streets of south Sacramento had quieted recently. Before this week, the last killing in the area had been on March 24, a lull some authorities credited to an increased police presence augmented by an FBI-funded task force.
That period of calm ended early Tuesday, when a 21-year-old man walking to his mother's home was gunned down near Max Baer Park on 35th Avenue, police said.
Twenty-four hours later, the silence was broken again. Four miles from where Adrian Hutchins was shot and killed, 36-year-old Larry Gibbs was killed on another south Sacramento street early Wednesday, the second killing this week that authorities say may have been the work of gangs.
Gibbs, who coroner's officials said lived in Elk Grove, appeared to have been shot in the head in the 6200 block of 39th Street just after 1 a.m., Sacramento sheriff's officials said.
Deputies had responded to two separate calls of gunshots being fired in the area earlier in the night, but found nothing. However, witnesses to the earlier gunshots and residents near where Gibbs was killed reported seeing a red Honda with a black hatchback leaving the area, authorities said.
A small memorial of empty liquor bottles and handwritten notes stood Wednesday night on the sidewalk where Gibbs was found, memorializing a man known to his friends as "Monsta."
As detectives search for suspects and motives in both killings, members of the FBI-funded task force -- which includes agents from the Sacramento police, probation and sheriff's departments, the Elk Grove Police Department and federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement -- met Wednesday with city homicide investigators to exchange information, said Karen Ernst, FBI spokeswoman.
The task force is using federal statutes to go for stronger penalties against gang members and is drawing upon the FBI's nationwide gang intelligence to target gangs in south Sacramento, officials said.
It is one of several moves law enforcement has made this year to go after gangs in the region.
The Sheriff's Department added to its gang and Problem-Oriented Policing units in the area in recent weeks.
Deputies who regularly patrol the neighborhood where Gibbs was shot said "things have been quiet in that area," according to sheriff's Sgt. Tim Curran.
"We know from history that more officers on the street equal less crime," Curran said.
Sacramento police are involved in "some real high-level stuff" in south Sacramento and in other so-called hot-spots in the city, including long-term investigations of gangs, according to police Chief Albert Nájera.
While those strategies coincide with a shifting of police personnel to neighborhoods where violence has spiked, Nájera said it might be too soon to tell whether those tactics are working.
"I can't say we've succeeded at this point," Nájera said, speaking outside a community forum at Luther Burbank High School on Wednesday night where about a dozen people gave police and fire officials input into what they'd like to see from the departments.
"We just need to keep up our efforts," he said.
Nájera said he plans to meet with the U.S. attorney's office in Sacramento on Monday to discuss how federal prosecutors can become involved in curbing violence in the city. He also would like to see the school resource officer program expanded from the city's high schools to junior high and elementary schools.
"There is no one answer to this," he said. "We need to attack this problem on a lot of levels."
Rebecca White, a south Sacramento resident who attended the community forum, said she'd like to see city and police officials be more proactive in getting to young people before they turn to crime.
"I want new ideas," she said. "It seems they are not addressing the emotional needs of these young people. And unless they address the emotional needs, they are not going to solve this issue."
Anyone with information regarding either of this week's homicides is asked to call Crime Alert at (916) 443-HELP.