ATWATER, CA – The Merced Police department’s Gang Violence Suppression Unit (GVSU) recently arrested several gang members after they posted a music video of themselves dancing with guns, but Atwater residents say that video is nothing compared to what gang members are allowed to get away with in Atwater.
“Our own Atwater PD officers are related to gang members,” said one Atwater resident we spoke with who wished to remain anonymous. “How can we trust these cops if their own kids are in gangs. One cop was even busted by the Sheriff’s department for growing a hundred weed plants and stealing his neighbors electricity. If the Atwater cops can get away with crap like that then you can bet our gang problems will only get worse.”
The officer they were referring to is Atwater PD Sargent Dick Wisdom whose own son either is or was a high-ranking gang in Atwater. Sgt Wisdom’s nephew, Atwater PD Officer Donald Wisdom III’s father was a Hells Angel and convicted of raping a 14-yerar-old girl. An Atwater PD source who, for concerns over his own safety has asked to remain anonymous, also stated that most, if not all of the Atwater PD officers, lack required regular certification in almost all areas.
And Atwater PD’s lack of actually enforcing the law is nothing new to long time and native residents of the area. In February 2009, a woman named Cindy wrote on Topix.com, “I’d like to know why the cops in Atwater do absolutely nothing about the gang activity and drugs in Atwater. Everyone knows that one of the worst areas is Determine, Secreteriat and Olive area, just to name 2 well known areas. If the citizens if Atwater know about this why aren’t the cops doing anything? I’m tired of hearing about “undercover” cops. Bull!Its not doing much good is it, when everyone knows who they are. Get out there in uniforms and marked cars patrol continuously, they would move on and maybe rid the “decent” people of this town of the trash!”
Awater is considered a Surreno stronghold and some of the known gangs in the area include A Town, Winton Varrio Parke, Los Primos, SouthSide Locs, Willow Street, and Poco Puero Loc to list a few. And according to retired Merced PD officer, Tom Trindad, “The gun is the tool of trade for gang members to commit violent acts in our community. They use it to trade for other guns or they use it to trade for drugs or they’ll trade drugs or guns. It’s an economy — or it’s a piece of property that’s very desired in the gang lifestyle.”
Since at least the 1980’s the gang problems in Merced County have been allowed to grow out of control. Now many School Board members, Police Officers, Sheriffs, local politicians. and the District Attorney’s own family have relatives and or close friends who are either gang members and or associates of the gangs. Is it their fault? Well, if they were looking at you and your family who are not gang members, but you had friends and or relatives that were, you can bet you would be considered as someone who is affiliated with a gang. So why can’t we hold our own law enforcement officers, politicians, and city/county leaders to the same standards?
Some have pointed to the gang and parole/probation sweeps that are conducted as law enforcement making an effort to clean it up. But these sweeps are only a temporary band aid. And although our District Attorney has the money and the tools at his disposal, like charging any gang member who threatens anyone with a felony, he has simply failed to act because he has been too busy trying to attack local law enforcement and covering his own kid’s gang problems.
Atwater cannot simply place another “God” sign at city hall and expect it’s problems to correct themselves. Atwater needs fresh, new and bold young leadership; people with the right ideas to tackle the gang problem and more. You can do it Atwater, and I for one believe in you! It’s going to take all of you condemning gangs, confronting your kids about who they hang out with, the clothing they wear, the slang they use, and holding other parents accountable for not parenting their children and for encouraging their family’s gang lifestyle.
And most of all it’s going to take serious and effective policing by highly trained and certified law enforcement officers, which Atwater just does not have,