ARTESIA — Officials have stepped up efforts to gain control of a small neighborhood plagued by gang activity.
In a show of force last week, 140 sheriff's deputies raided suspected gang locations in the neighborhood where city officials say the Chivas gang operates. Deputies arrested six adults and four juveniles, and confiscated nine guns and a small quantity of cocaine.
"Our thrust is to show them (gang members) that we mean business," City Manager Lois O'Sullivan said. "We are attempting to make the neighborhood safe and will stay on them (gang members) until we do."
O'Sullivan said officials spent the last several weeks working with the Sheriff's Department in planning the raids. "This will be the first of many examples of the strict law enforcement posture," she said.
The neighborhood, which is on the northern edge of the city, has been harassed over the past eight months. Sheriff's deputies say there have been at least eight gang-related shooting incidents during that period.
Officials say most of the gang incidents involve fighting between the Chivas gang, based in the neighborhood, and the rival Varrio gang in Norwalk. The neighborhood is bounded by Pioneer Boulevard, 166th Street, Elaine Avenue and the Artesia (91) Freeway.
Norwalk Gang Larger
There are about 10 or 12 gang leaders and perhaps 100 followers in the Chivas gang, and more than 300 in the Norwalk gang, said Deputy George Vanecek, who is assigned to the city of Artesia.
On April 13, a teen-age gang member was shot in the leg while standing on a street in nearby Norwalk. In what deputies believe may have been retaliation, a 14-year-old boy who lives in the Chivas neighborhood was run over by a truck on April 29 while riding his bike on a street in the area. The youth is in critical condition. No arrests have been reported.
Residents have also complained on different occasions that stray bullets struck their homes after rival gang members exchanged gunfire. No one has been injured.
Residents became more alarmed when the city closed the neighborhood's only park after youths broke windows and ripped out telephones at the community center, drove a stolen tractor over the playground equipment, and coated the building and handball and basketball courts with graffiti.
Officials have taken a number of steps to address the problem.
The Sheriff's Department increased its visibility, adding regular helicopter patrols to supplement squad car patrols. The city also installed a 24-hour hot line to encourage anonymous calls from residents about gang activity.
Last week's raid by the 140 deputies, most of them from the department's anti-gang detail, was the strongest show of force to date. They raided 13 suspected gang locations, 12 in the Chivas neighborhood and one in the unincorporated county area near Whittier.
They arrested a 41-year old man who was accused of firing a shotgun at deputies when they entered his home in the 11900 block of Arkansas Avenue in Artesia. Deputies returned the fire, but no one was hit. The man, Francisco Aguilar, faces a charge of attempted murder on an officer.
O'Sullivan said officials also are planning to meet with gang members in about two weeks. Some gang members have expressed an interest in painting over the graffiti in the park building and helping with its upkeep, she said.