06/02/2007

Gangbangers ordered out of Calif. desert town

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger monitoring program as possible statewide model for fighting gang-related violence.

By Stacia Glenn
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin 
 
VICTORVILLE, Calif.  All it took was a sheaf of papers to send some of the most notorious gangbangers in the High Desert packing.

A permanent read, forever gang injunction is now in place for East Side Victoria, a 115-member Latino gang that has been rooted in Victorville for 25 years.

Several gang members who came from Los Angeles and Pomona long ago in search of affordable housing have already moved on, police said.

East Side Victoria members are known for pushing drugs on the streets, robbery, assault and intimidating witnesses.

"They have grown and grown and grown and terrorized the people in this neighborhood," Police Chief Mark Taylor said at a news conference Thursday. "But we are dedicated to stamping out the terror these hoodlums bring to the city of Victorville."

The injunction is just step one. The next step is implementing a new program called U-Turn, which the City Council is expected to approve Tuesday.

It is a new way of fighting gangs, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is closely monitoring the program to see whether he should use it as a statewide model.

The focus is on strengthening the nucleus of family. Parents will receive training on how to be more involved in their kids lives and the children will get a taste of "real life" rather than "gang life."

U-Turn, which will stick with a family for three to five years, will be a "chokehold on gangs by starving them of new members while taking old members off the street," said Councilman Bob Hunter.

A handful of pre-teens as young as 8 will kick off the program, Hunter said, and candidates will be recommended by probation and school resource officers.

"We are sending a message that you're not going to commit a crime in San Bernardino County and get away with it because they act," said District Attorney Michael A. Ramos.

His office has filed more than 2,000 cases on more than 2,000 gangbangers in the last two years. About 1,000 of the gang members have gone to jail as a result.

Gangs were so entrenched in the High Desert that a two-deputy gang unit was formed in Victorville in 2005. They have since added four deputies and are expected to continue expanding.

The gang unit, dubbed San Bernardino Movement Against Street Hoodlums, has worked diligently to cut down on gang warfare but it was costing Victorville more than $60,000 per month. Hence, the injunction.

San Bernardino County Sheriff's investigators have identified more than 13,000 gang members belonging to 689 gangs in the county. There are 647 gang members who call Victorville home.

The East Side Victoria gang no longer can.

Its members are forbidden from associating with each other, gathering in the Old Town area, carrying weapons, wearing gang clothing or committing any crime.

Violation of any of those things means a misdemeanor. That may not sound so intimidating, but since most gang members have a record, it usually means time in prison.

"Victorville is serious about public safety and now the city has a powerful new tool," said county supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt.

Copyright 2007 MediaNews Group, Inc.

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