11-month gang probe nets 31

Police say investigation makes airport area safer

Friday, May. 08, 2009

By Leslie Albrecht
The Modesto Bee

Modesto police say they’ve completed a lengthy investigation into gang activity in the airport neighborhood, and that residents are likely safer as a result.

The 11-month probe netted 31 arrests, took eight guns off the street and hampered gang activity in the neighborhood, police announced Thursday.

“We think this has made a substantial dent in the senseless violence that’s been occurring in the airport neighborhood,” said Sgt. Brian Findlen, the police spokesman.

The investigation led to arrests in five shootings and two attempted murder cases. None of those arrested are linked to any homicides.

The investigation began in June and ended with an arrest May 1. Most of those arrested are gang members, Fin-dlen said. It’s not known how many still are in custody, have been convicted of crimes or are back on the street.

The investigation started after a shooting in the 700 block of Empire Avenue in June. Police arrested Ivan Covarrubias, then 20, on suspicion of attempted murder. Police believe Covarrubias fired several rounds at a rival gang member and his family.

Unreported crimes discovered

That arrest uncovered leads on other crimes in the area, some of which had gone unreported, Findlen said.

For example, investigators discovered an attempted murder involving a man who shot at two men in a car.

Modesto police weren’t aware of the shooting, Findlen said, because when the victims were treated at a hospital, they told authorities that the shooting happened in Stockton. Findlen said gang members sometimes misreport such crimes because they don’t want police involved.

Police served 20 search warrants during the course of the investigation. Investigators seized a pound of methamphetamine and marijuana.

“If we get those drugs off the street, we cripple their funding,” Findlen said. “We hope we’ve done that in this case because that’s how they support themselves.”

One man is still wanted in connection with the investigation. Police are looking for Miguel Espinoza, 21, of Modesto. He is wanted on suspicion of trans- portation of a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance for sale, possession of stolen property and participation in a criminal street gang.


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