As part of a new state crackdown on gangs, hundreds of law enforcement officers raided the homes of ethnic Cambodians here Wednesday, arresting suspected leaders of a drug distribution network that authorities said stretched to several states.
In the first such operation since Brown took office this year, state Department of Justice agents and local law enforcement officers served two dozen search warrants at homes of members of the Loc Town Crips.
Officials said the gang used text messaging and private parcel services to sell marijuana, methamphetamine and ecstasy in North Carolina, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Ohio. In return, gang members allegedly received cash and firearms, which officials said were sometimes used in drive-by shootings.
At least 32 members were arrested Wednesday on a variety of weapons and drug charges, and others were being sought. Police seized 26 firearms, including an AK-47 assault rifle, plus two bulletproof vests and modest quantities of drugs and cash.
Stockton Police Chief Wayne Hose told a news conference that he turned to the attorney general’s office for help about six months ago after the Loc Town Crips became increasingly violent, accounting for a large portion of local robberies and shootings. “No agency can do it alone,” Hose said.
In recent months, officials say, the state’s gang-suppression enforcement team and local authorities intercepted $50,000, 12 ounces of methamphetamine and six handguns in packages that the gang allegedly shipped via United Parcel Service, DHL and Federal Express.
“Today’s major takedown ends the reign of one of the most sophisticated and vicious gangs operating in California today,” Brown said.
His office said about a dozen California cities plagued by gang problems have requested help from the gang-suppression enforcement team started by former state Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer.
Reporters were taken along on some of the raids. Several of the houses they visited were pocked with bullet holes from drive-by shootings by rival gangs directed at alleged Loc Town Crips who lived there.
In one quiet block of $600,000 to $700,000 homes, with thick green lawns and earth-tone paint jobs, neighbors said they experienced two shooting incidents between February and the end of April.
Neighbors said more than 30 shots were fired at the gang house in the second incident, and that some of the occupants came out and returned fire. The gunfire also damaged homes on either side, breaking a window and penetrating stucco walls. A Lincoln Navigator in the gang members’ driveway still had a bullet hole in a door.
“It’s bad,” said a neighbor, Andrew Villanueva, who moved eight months ago to what he thought was a safe neighborhood. “We called 911. Gunshots were fired. Bullet casings were all around the area.”
“One of the biggest concerns with the gang problem,” said Sarna of the attorney general’s office, “is it is creeping into nice new neighborhoods like this.”