Gang task force a model for Bay Area crime fighting

November 24, 2010 8:56:24 PM PST
The San Mateo County Sheriff's gang task force is known for its relentless pursuit of gang members. The unit is fast becoming a model for other law enforcement agencies.

Last weekend was the gang task force's once a month maintenance sweep, where they check on parolees and probationers with ties to gangs. The 27 members of the task force are assigned from various police departments in the county.

The sweeps come on the heels of a huge summer operation with 16 weeks of non-stop activity by the gang task force up and down the county.

"We had about 460 arrests and we took about 33 guns off the street during that 16 week deployment, so it was very successful," Hillsborough Police Department Sgt. Doug Davis said.

Detective Jamie Draper from the Daly City Police Department says the biggest gang on the Peninsula is the Nortenos, whose color is red. Their rival Surrenos wear blue. But Draper says gang members are getting harder to identify because they are toning down their colors.

"Things going into more subtle aspects like maybe the red belt, red shoelaces, red highlights to clothing," Draper said. "It's also becoming more common that the tattooing is, they've toned that back."

This month's maintenance sweep started last Wednesday with numerous arrests. On Saturday, the last day of the operation, heavy rain and hail drove gangsters in doors.

"Gang members are not going to be out on the street corners or in some of the parks, their usual haunts, so we're going to have to dig a little deeper," Draper said.

Police targeted the homes of gang members and their associates. One of the stops was a trailer park in South San Francisco. A Norteno parolee lives there, but he was not around.

"It turned out he was taken into custody in another county, so he's currently in jail right now," xxx said.

Later that night, police got a tip from an informant that a high level Norteno fugitive was in the Sunnydale projects. A team of about a dozen officers from the task force descended on the apartment. Some were heavily armed.

A resident opened the door and allowed them to search the home. Some officers recognized him as a Norteno but he was not the one they were looking for.

"It's pretty coincidental there was another Norteno gang member; I think it was pretty good information that he was there so we may have just missed him," Draper said

Their luck turned around later in Redwood City; North Fair Oaks is Norteno territory. Graffiti and signs of drug dealing are everywhere on the 200 block of Dumbarton Avenue.

"That's the turf of the Little Mexico gang, which is a Norteno gang down in Redwood City, a very active gang," xxx said.

Officers arrested a 17-year-old gang member who violated his probation.

The November maintenance checks resulted in a dozen arrests and a warning.


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