Surprise raid angers E. Palo Alto residents

November 3, 2009 5:37:47 PM PST
State narcotics agents and the SWAT team launched what they called a "high-risk operation" in East Palo Alto Tuesday. They are looking for drugs, guns and the people who have them.

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At 5:00 a.m., state narcotics agents assisted by the San Mateo County Sheriff's SWAT team and East Palo Alto police, raided two homes on Fordham and Baylor Streets.

"The 2400 block of Fordham, along with Baylor, are two hot spots in our city that we get frequent calls of drug activity, street violence, robberies, things of that nature," Detective Angel Sanchez explained.

Police said they were surprised to find 30 people living in the house on Fordham, including 15 children. Investigators from Child Protective Services were called. The children were put on a bus while agents searched the home for drugs and guns. They found neither and they also did not find the suspect they were looking for. Three men detained were later released.

The surprise raid angered residents of the house.

"Everybody's upset because they came to the wrong house. And, the name of the person on the warning they issued, he's not living here. He lives some place else and we don't know this kid," Faauuga Talamoa told ABC7. "They apologized but it was too late. The damage was already done."

Agents had better luck at the house on Baylor. They made one arrest and seized a handgun and cocaine. Still, that was far less than what were looking for.

Similar raids are not uncommon in the neighborhood. Two years ago, in one of the biggest operations in memory, state narcotics agents and a multi-city task force made over 100 arrests and seized large quantities of drugs and guns.

In March, a massive operation which stretched from the East Bay to San Jose resulted in the arrests of some 50 people. Police say they broke the back of a violent gang in East Palo Alto called the "Taliban." State narcotics agent Bob Cooke says there are just too many gangs there.

"There are at least eight gangs in that city," he said. "That's a small town, 2.2 square miles. Population I think is under 30,000."

Tuesday's raids come on the heels of a half-dozen shootings in the past few weeks.

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