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L.A. Gangs, Drugs Invade Inland Empire

August 11, 1988|LOUIS SAHAGUN | Times Staff Writer

RIVERSIDE — William had had enough.

The 33-year-old apartment manager moved here from Los Angeles three months ago after discovering that his teen-age son was involved in a gang and was selling rock cocaine.

But his hopes of a new life free of gangs and their influence were soon dispelled.

"A tenant told me a guy asked her how much she'd charge if he could sell rock cocaine from her apartment. It's hard, man, they're everywhere," said William, who because of his fear of retribution from the gangs spoke on condition that his real name not be used.

In fact, many gang members who are moving from Los Angeles to the so-called Inland Empire of Riverside and San Bernardino counties also speak of leaving behind the violent drug trade of Los Angeles. But they move here because they figure the competition is less intense and the police scrutiny less severe.

Witness Robert, a 26-year-old Crips gang member who moved his rock cocaine business out of Watts to a small city near Riverside. Before he moved he scouted the local police.

"I counted (only) eight cars, four of them rolling mostly in the downtown area," said Robert, who asked that his real name not be used. "I said, 'I love it.' "

Robert next befriended a single woman who lived in a cheap apartment on the outskirts of town. He gave her groceries, furniture and drugs in return for the use of her apartment.

Robert figures he sold $30,000 worth of cocaine out of that apartment and others until he was shot and nearly killed by local drug dealers he was underselling.

Now, authorities have identified at least 2,000 Los Angeles gang members and associates who either live or operate in cities ranging from bedroom communities like Rialto and Ontario to the desert resorts. With them has come an increase in reported murders, assaults, burglaries and drive-by shootings, authorities said.

For example, there were three gang-related murders and 12 gang-related attempted murders reported in western Riverside County in 1987, compared to one murder and one attempted murder in 1985, according to the most recent statistics. Similarly, there were 200 gang-related cases filed with the county district attorney's office in 1987, compared to only 15 in 1985.

Most recently, an 18-year-old member of a Rolling 60s Crips gang in Los Angeles was shot in the neck on July 12 near downtown Riverside by a member of a rival gang, the Playboy Gangster Crips of Los Angeles, authorities said. The shooting followed an argument over rock cocaine.

"There are too many of them and not enough of us," said Riverside County Sheriff's Investigator Ed Harvey, one of two deputies assigned to that agency's gang detail. "We are also at a disadvantage from large cities that can make profiles of gang members who reside in their area. Here, they often commute from Los Angeles to sell drugs, and go home."

"The sophistication of these people is what was least expected," said David Tolford, a gang investigator for the Riverside district attorney's office. "The Los Angeles gang members who come to Riverside are conducting themselves in the manner of urban terrorists."

Although the problem hardly compares with the situation in Los Angeles, public anxiety here has reached near-panic levels in some of the low-income neighborhoods favored by gang members.

Along once quiet streets, residents complain of drug dealers who openly ply their trade by day and communicate with each other at night by whistling or banging on car fenders and fence posts. Meanwhile, apartment complexes, walls, homes, businesses and city parks have been plastered with the graffiti characteristic of the Los Angeles-based Crip and Blood gangs.

Neighborhoods Changed

In fact, certain street corners in Riverside, San Bernardino and Moreno Valley have become indistinguishable from gang hangouts in Los Angeles. Here too, gang-related drug dealers bark prices from porches and sidewalks at potential customers who cruise by.

"At first I was frightened--now, I'm damn angry," said Patricia Davie, 55, the fourth manager in four months at a particularly troubled location near downtown Riverside called the Broadmore Apartments. Forty-third Street Crips from Los Angeles, Davie said, have "taken the place hostage."

On July 14, a young man was shot and wounded in the apartment courtyard after tenants heard someone yell, "You owe me $10!" she said. In March, one of the apartment units was peppered with gunshots.

Now, despite frequent police raids on the 26-unit complex, "They stand at the front gate and sometimes won't even let people get through," Davie said. "When the police get here, it sounds like a heard of elephants running up the stairs to hide."

Jeanie Williams, a Riverside city park director of 15 years who recently dodged a bullet in a drive-by shooting incident attributed to a Crips gang from Los Angeles, added, "You get terrified all the time now."

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