70 arrested in massive parole sweep aimed at countering gang crime

Frank Shyong (Los Angeles Times) | July 26, 2012

About 700 officers from federal, state and local agencies hammered on the doors of about 400 parolees across Los Angeles County early Wednesday morning in what officials called the largest surprise parole sweep ever.

Authorities made at least 70 arrests, confiscated dozens of weapons and seized 30 grams of cocaine and 156 grams of marijuana. Officers also discovered 20 full-grown marijuana plants, impounded five pit bulls that may have been used for dogfighting, and took a child into protective custody after her father was arrested.

About 7,000 of Los Angeles County’s 16,000 parolees have gang ties. It’s common practice for corrections officers to periodically check on these parolees, but rarely are they cuffed before breakfast as a team of officers searches their homes.

“Can I kiss my grandma goodbye?” asked a parolee whose gang name was Trucha, a Spanish slang term meaning “beware.”

In a search of his home, officers discovered the type of shaved key sometimes used to break into cars, two ounces of marijuana and correspondence with a fellow Lincoln Heights gang member in Pelican Bay State Prison. “Yeah, go ahead,” said an officer.

Trucha, who will serve an estimated sentence of three months for violating parole, pecked his grandma on the cheek and comforted her in Spanish before stalking away, cursing.

The last large-scale parole sweep occurred last year with “Operation Disarm,” which targeted weapons offenders and led to 77 arrests. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation also conducts large annual sweeps on Halloween to target sex offenders statewide. Wednesday’s sweep, termed “Operation Guardian,” was intended to counter a seasonal spike in violent gang crime, authorities said.

“It keeps them on their toes,” said Parole Agent Rick McKail. “They don’t know when we might come out.”

Parole is meant to be “an extension of jail,” McKail said. Parolees get a chance to conform to society’s expectations, but they agree to a regimen of good behavior to which there are no exceptions.

Arthur Mosqueda, an assistant manager for the corrections department’s Los Angeles division, said the sweeps send a message. But the armed, large-scale confrontations rubs some parolees the wrong way.

One parolee cursed at an agent who unholstered a gun in front of his 2-month-old son. Soon after, in a search of the apartment, officers discovered marijuana and a simulation handgun that fires ball bearings and arrested the parolee.

Read more at: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-0726-sweep-20120726,0,4501033.story

Image source: Max Whittaker / The New York Times

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