Police raid targets suspected Rialto gang members

More than 120 officers are involved in the sweep as San Bernardino County officials prepare to file the first gang injunction in county history.
By Francisco Vara-Orta, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
July 3, 2008
More than 120 officers Wednesday raided the homes of suspected members of a Rialto street gang as San Bernardino County officials prepared to file the first gang injunction in county history against the targeted group.

“These gang members have been involved in homicides, assaults with a deadly weapon, shootings and other violent crime,” said Lt. Joe Cirilo, a spokesman for the Rialto Police Department, the lead agency on the raids. “They are without a doubt destroying the quality of life here.”

Those targeted were members of the South Side Rialto gang, said Susan Mickey, a spokeswoman for the San Bernardino County district attorney’s office.

Out of the 16 gang members confronted with the injunction during the raid, 15 were arrested, authorities said. Thirteen were on probation and parole.

Some of those arrested had outstanding criminal charges and will remain in custody while others were brought in only to verify information, Cirilo said.

The sweep began about 5:45 a.m., with officers from 14 law enforcement agencies in San Bernardino and Riverside counties serving 16 search warrants, mostly in Rialto, authorities said. Four search warrants also were served in San Bernardino, one in Colton and one in Redlands, police said.

During the raids, officers confiscated 22 guns and rifles and gang paraphernalia.

One man captured by police was a 30-year-old Rialto rapper who goes by Cam-Capone and is known for his performance on a YouTube.com video titled “Rialto City.” Officials said he was a convicted felon who is “anti-police.” Authorities seized 18 guns from his home.

“He got caught in this net he helped make,” Cirilo said.

Police said the South Side Rialto gang has been active in the area for a few decades now, a spinoff of an older gang called the Monarchs.

“They have caused havoc here in the city for a number of years and we’re glad to be working with the district attorney’s office on this to end their reign,” Cirilo said.

The sweep and injunction come after a yearlong investigation.

At a news conference Wednesday afternoon, San Bernardino County Dist. Atty. Michael A. Ramos, flanked by Rialto police officials, said the gang injunction was part of a larger effort to crack down on gang activity in the community.

“We are going to use every means at our disposal to rid our streets of these vicious gang members,” Ramos said. “We intend to clamp down in this neighborhood so that the law-abiding citizens can live there without fear.”

The county’s injunction prohibits gang members in Rialto from congregating and wearing gang attire in a designated “safety zone” — roughly bounded by Rialto Avenue on the north, San Bernardino Avenue on the south, Pepper Avenue on the east and Riverside Avenue on the west.

Violators could face fines or up to one year in jail, officials said.

Crime experts say injunctions help cut down on crime, citing major cities such as Los Angeles, which has issued a number of them over the years.

Last year, the Orange County district attorney obtained an injunction prohibiting about 230 gang members in San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente from congregating and engaging in gang activity in specific neighborhoods. The latest available figures show that between November and January, gang-related calls to sheriff’s deputies in San Clemente dropped 33%. In San Juan Capistrano, they fell 85%.

As for San Bernardino County, Cirilo said the injunction is “not a save-all, but it’s a tool to use so we can take the gang members off the streets.”

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