The "cat and mouse" game with gang members embedded in the Acorn housing project has been going on for years. But this time the Oakland Police Department did something different -- they teamed up with the FBI.
They went in prepared for a fight. FBI agents in tactical gear with automatic weapons stormed the Acorn housing complex Wednesday night. They were going after the Acorn gang and the military weapons responsible for a recent spike in gang violence.
"It's a very active and violent criminal street gang that's involved in a lot of shootings, robberies in West Oakland, and even some in East Oakland as well," said Lt. Tony Jones with the OPD Gang Intelligence Task Force.
One mother in the Acorn Housing complex added, "The youngest I've seen was a 12, a 12-year-old with a gun. It was hanging out of his pocket."
Police say the Acorn gang has been living here and intimidating residents for years. Most residents were afraid to talk on camera.
"Just walking through the neighborhood, you're just on your tippy toes, basically," the mother added.
More than 300 FBI and Oakland police officers served 16 search warrants. They arrested five people and confiscated four firearms. Not the success they were hoping for.
"We didn't find all the weapons that we were looking for," Lt. Jones said. "We have information that before we came they were able to see us coming and move to different locations."
It's part of the frustration of fighting a gang that's embedded within this massive housing complex. And when one leader is arrested, another member takes over.
"I think the solution is to have strong community partnerships," Lt. Jones said.
But gaining that trust is another challenge, and some residents say police are getting faulty information. As the violence ebbs and flows here, police say they'll continue working on that trust while staying on top of the gang's activities and leadership.
So even with FBI intelligence and 16 search warrants, police believe they lost the element of surprise. Many residents disapprove of the Acorn gang, but there appears to be many others who are willing to give those gang members a place to hide within the Acorn.