GARDEN GROVE — Police conducted the most extensive gang sweep in the city's history, authorities said Monday, arresting 51 people and confiscating eight handguns.
"We wanted to send a message to the gang members that, at least as far as Garden Grove is concerned, if you're going to be a gang member, then we're going to use zero tolerance. We're trying to prevent any violence, and gang members create violence," said Sgt. Bruce J. Prince, head of the city's gang unit.
A combined task force of 35 gang unit members and special investigation officers, along with county probation officers, swept through gang areas and hangouts Friday and Saturday nights, Prince said.
The suspected gang members were being held on suspicion of narcotics possession, probation violations and other crimes, he said. The most serious suspected crime was firing into an occupied dwelling.
Those arrested were equally divided between the city's Asian and Latino gangs, Prince said, and most were juveniles. They were taken to County Jail and Juvenile Hall, or cited and released, some to the custody of their parents, he said.
"We were looking for some specific people on probation," Prince said. "Everything else was driving around gang areas and hangouts. . . . The sweep seemed to be highly effective."
Police officials said their action had been planned for weeks and that the timing of the sweep on a weekend of gang violence in Santa Ana and San Clemente was coincidental.
"Other cities in the county had lots of problems this weekend," Prince said. "Our intent was to go out there to the gangs and prevent any types of violent acts."
Until this sweep, the largest number of weekend gang arrests in the city was about 30, he said.
"We've done gang sweeps from time to time over the past several years," Capt. David J. Abrecht said. This sweep was done in partnership with the county Probation Department "to enforce the terms of probation so it becomes a viable tool in dealing with violence," Abrecht said.
Even if gang members are picked up on minor probation violations, he said, "that arrest may drive home the point that certain people need to conform to the terms of probation and be home at night, rather than on the street."