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Police target Santa Ana's Cedar Evergreen neighborhood in parole sweep

September 26, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Santa Ana Police came down hard on a troubled neighborhood Wednesday tracking down probation violators. It was an early morning sweep on Evergreen Street in Santa Ana.

"What we have here is a large drug problem. It's a drug problem that's tied to the gangs in this area. They're fighting over the turf," said Santa Ana Police Corporal Anthony Bertagna.

More than 70 apartment complexes are packed into a four-block area known as the Cedar Evergreen Neighborhood. Police consider it to be one of the most violent neighborhoods in the city. There have been more than 1,300 calls for service so far this year.

Multiple agencies are cracking down, searching dozens of apartments where those on probation or parole live. Police are making sure they're following the rules.

Just next door police check on a man who served time for robbery. They find he violated his probation. He's taken into custody.

In another apartment, police discover five turtles piled on top of each other in a bucket. The owner is now facing felony charges.

"He told us he was going to kill them and eat them. Our Animal Control determined that it definitely was animal cruelty," said Santa Ana Police Detective Pete Picone.

Authorities say the greater police presence in the neighborhood started several months ago as police and community groups began working together to try to reduce crime. Activities include crews cleaning up graffiti in the neighborhood to improving lighting.

"The neighborhood is better than before. I've been living here four years. We're expecting the city to do more because the city has kind of forgot about this neighborhood," said resident Maria Enriquez.

Enriquez says she doesn't mind if police search her place if it can help her 17-year-old son, who's on probation. She admits learning how to be a better parent can help reduce crime.

A former cop turned church pastor is trying to provide life skills to residents through various programs in order to give young people hope.

"They can plug into something positive instead of leaving school where you hear about going to college, and then you come to a community where you have to dodge bullets every day," said Pastor Kevin Brown, Action Institute Ministries.

In just two hours police arrest seven people. The crackdown is the latest step in trying to make one community safer.

"Our main goal was to send the message to the community," said Bertagna. "We're here for the long term to change the neighborhood."


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