Bay Area gang members busted in FBI raid

March 7, 2009 7:36:53 PM PST
City, state and federal law enforcement officials arrested more than 30 people and seized drugs, firearms and several vehicles Saturday morning during raids across the Bay Area that were carried out to dismantle one of the region's most notorious gangs, according to the FBI.

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An 18-month gang investigation, sparked by an increase in violence, led to numerous search and arrest warrants throughout the Bay Area, East Palo Alto Police Department Capt. Carl Estelle said Saturday morning in the city near where one raid took place.

The raid in the 1400 block of Camellia Drive and Gardenia Way in East Palo Alto, which began at about 7 a.m., was part of the larger operation involving about 500 law enforcement personnel across 20 jurisdictions at about 30 locations in East Palo Alto, Menlo Park, San Jose, Emeryville, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Oakland, San Mateo, Redwood City, Hayward, Belmont, Fremont, San Leandro and Newark.

According to residents in the East Palo Alto neighborhood that was raided, smoke bombs were detonated, doors were broken and fences tore down as part of the operation there. Neighbors watched in surprise as local humane society officials confiscated pit bulls from homes on the block.

"(Today's raid) will result in dismantling one of the most notorious gangs in East Palo Alto," East Palo Alto Chief of Police Ronald Davis said at a news conference following the local raid. "I'm confident that this will have a positive effect and reduce violence in East Palo Alto. But tomorrow is a new day and we will target a new gang."

Menlo Park Police Department Chief of Police Bruce Goitia called today's raid "the most significant operation in the last 20 years" and said the investment by law enforcement has paid dividends in securing the safety and quality of life of the community.

East Palo Alto police Detective Ed Soares said methods used by street gangs have become increasingly sophisticated with the advancement of technology and they are now operated similar to a business.

"It's a constant cat and mouse game," Soares said.

The East Palo Alto and Menlo Park-based Taliban gang formed in 2002, an off-shoot of a smaller gang called the Midtown Hogs, in response to a conflict between the rival Sac Street gang. The Taliban gang started with 10 members but grew in size and force when the Sac Street gang was dismantled by police in 2006 in "Operation: Disrupt and Dismantle."

Members of the gang mainly consist of black men ranging in age from 19 to 47 years old who wear green camouflage. Its members have been arrested for at least 237 crimes and are suspected of being involved in homicides, drug trafficking, weapons possession, armed robberies and strong-arm robberies, according to FBI Special Agent Joseph Schadler.

"They're a bad bunch of folks," Schadler said.

In addition to local and state authorities, FBI SWAT teams from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento and San Diego assisted.

The suspects will make their initial court appearances Monday in Oakland.

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