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Riding along on a gang crackdown in Santa Ana

May 6, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
A gang crackdown is under way in Santa Ana, where police have joined forces with the California Highway Patrol to arrest violators. Eyewitness News rode along with officers as they searched for gang members on the streets. Early evening and the Santa Ana Police Gang Unit is on patrol.

"We're going to areas where we received complaints from the citizens on gang activity," said Santa Ana Police Sgt. Lorenzo Carrillo.

Right after entering one neighborhood, suspected gang members scatter and police chase after them.

One suspect was found to be in violation of his probation. Police also found marijuana.

Helping with the arrest were officers you would normally see on California freeways.

Two law enforcement agencies are working together thanks to a $400,000 grant from the state to fight gangs.

"It's phenomenal," said Lorenzo. "Overnight, the gang unit doubled in size."

Twenty officers face tough odds. Gang shootings are up nearly 20 percent compared to the same time last year. Police are faced with more than 90 gangs and 5,000 documented gang members in Santa Ana.

"We get a lot of repeat offenders," said CHP Sgt. Chico Ramos. "We're seeing a lot of the same faces, same tattoos. If they break the law, they will be going to jail."

Police say since last year the partnership with the CHP has led to more than 300 arrests, and more than 60 guns taken off the streets.

When police took a closer look at a nighttime traffic accident, they found a handgun in the driver's side door of a vehicle.

An arson from just days before is suspected by authorities to be rival gangs fighting.

Some residents are too afraid to talk on camera. They say even more police patrols are needed.

Authorities say it comes down to money. The CHP partnership will last 60 days. Police hope to renew the grant with the goal of returning neighborhoods to residents.


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