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Crime Unit in W. Covina Nets $3.4 Million


WEST COVINA — Crime paid big here last week.

As a result of drug and money laundering investigations in 1989 and 1990, the police's Special Enforcement Team received $3.4 million from the federal government.

And the Police Department will need it. A recent report showed gang crime to be up 74% last year compared with 1989, police Cmdr. John Distelrath said.

Last year, there were 228 gang-related crimes, up from 131 in 1989. The most common were murder, assault, robbery, rape, burglary and theft. Assaults were up 60%.

The Special Enforcement Team, a narcotics unit, participates in the federal asset-seizure program, which allows local agencies to claim money and property seized in drug arrests.

The program requires that the money be used for law enforcement and stipulates that it cannot be used to replace current city funding. Since 1984, the eight-member undercover team has received $10.3 million from the federal government.

U.S. Customs and Internal Revenue Service officials presented the department with the money in Anaheim last week during the annual conference of the California Police Chiefs Assn.

West Covina police received the second-largest share of seized assets in the state, according to federal officials. The Orange County Regional Narcotics Suppression Program got $7 million.

In West Covina, police have identified 11 gangs with more than 2,100 members, mostly on the city's south side.

Most gang members are school age, ranging from 13 to 18, Distelrath said. He said six handguns were confiscated from the city's junior and high schools last year, compared to two in 1989.

The West Covina Street Crime Apprehension Team has four uniformed patrol officers who work closely with gang and narcotics investigators. SCAT targets street drug dealers.

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