There are about 5,000 documented gang members, and an equal number of undocumented gang members, in Stanislaus County. They belong to 64 documented criminal gangs.
As their numbers have grown, so too have the problems associated with gangs.
Violent crime, including murders, shootings and assaults. Drug trafficking. Property crimes. Intimidation of neighbors and the takeover of public spaces, such as parks.
All of which explains why this week's very public gang sweep -- which resulted in 14 arrests early Wednesday in Modesto, Turlock and Ceres -- gained so much attention.
The arrests were part of a 10-month investigation into alleged criminal activity of members or associates of the Nuestra Familia prison gang or its street-level gang, the Norteños.
The operation was led by the Central Valley Gang Impact Task Force, a federally funded group of investigators from local, state and federal police agencies.
Thursday, five of the seven people facing state charges appeared for the first time in Stanislaus County Superior Court.
Seven other suspects arrested on federal charges of methamphetamine trafficking will have their cases heard in U.S. District Court in Fresno.
Among those appearing Thursday in Modesto were Jesus Manuel Aispuro, 19, Jarred Elkins, 18, both of Turlock, and Ivan Gonzalez Velasquez, 17, of Hilmar. They have each been charged with one count of attempted murder with enhancements for allegedly using a gun and committing the crime for the benefit of the Norteño street gang.
Since they appeared without their attorneys, Stanislaus County Court Commissioner Nancy Williamsen entered not guilty pleas on their behalf. They will be appointed attorneys in their next scheduled hearing Wednesday.
Velasquez was 16 when the alleged crime occurred, but he is being prosecuted as an adult. Williamsen increased their bail to $1.5 million each. Aispuro and Elkins remained in custody at the Stanislaus County Jail, while Velasquez was being held at the Stanislaus County Juvenile Hall.