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City Goes After Gang Members on Top 25 List : Crime: Deputies are targeting those considered the most violent. In eight months, 30 have been arrested or left town. New names have replaced them on the list.

January 06, 1994|EMILY ADAMS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

PARAMOUNT — Lil Zig Zag was arrested on murder charges. Joker's sitting in jail, accused of armed robbery. And Gizmo moved out of town.

So Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies knocked three names off Paramount's list. And three more were waiting to take their places.

"The list" is not where a young man living in Paramount wants to be these days. It names the 25 youths considered to be the most violent gang members in town.

Those on the list can expect to see a deputy two to four times a day. Six deputies have been added to Paramount streets to watch the targeted gang members.

The list is the core of Paramount's new Target Program--the city's most recent attempt to salvage its image as a quiet suburb.

Since the program began eight months ago, at least 30 youths have been jailed--sometimes as a direct result of surveillance--or have abruptly moved out of town and out of the spotlight, according to Sheriff's Department and city officials.

The department's top brass is excited about the program, enough so to send the idea to a national law enforcement organization, which will distribute it to interested agencies nationwide.

"We're not saying Paramount is crime-free, but the gang problem is way down," Deputy City Manager Patrick West said.

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Of 10 homicides in the city in 1992, seven were considered gang-related. Although killings increased to 14 during 1993, just three were gang-related, he said.

Businessman Chuck Lyons gauges gang activity by the amount of graffiti he has to clean off the 94 warehouses his company, Fu-Lyons Associates, owns or manages in town.

"I can tell you graffiti is way down, and we take that as a real good sign," Lyons said. "We tell people who are thinking of moving here about the Target Program, and it is a big selling point."

For deputies, the case of Bouncer is one example of the program's success.

Bouncer, 20, whose real name is Adrian Guerrero, was on the list. Sheriff's deputies had contacted him repeatedly. He knew, no doubt, that he was being watched.

But on Sept. 22, he and another young man went to Downey with a .380 Beretta automatic handgun. At 4:30 p.m., they walked into Omega Burger at Lakewood Boulevard and Imperial Highway, pulled the gun and demanded cash, Downey police Detective Ed Compton said. Bouncer and the accomplice got $371 and took off, just as Compton pulled up in an unmarked car. The officer followed but got mired in traffic.

Meanwhile, a deputy from the Paramount sheriff's substation heard the robbery report on the police radio and drove to the Downey border. In a mini-mall parking lot, he saw Bouncer and the other youth and decided to talk with them. While they were talking, the radio squawked out complete descriptions of the two robbery suspects. The deputy realized he was looking right at them.

Guerrero was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced in November to seven years in prison. The 17-year-old was not charged because witnesses were unable to identify him.

A list of Target Program successes also includes such entries as:

* M-Loc, 17, nine previous arrests. "Released from custody, moved to Arizona. Moved back and now in CYA Camp."

* Gangster, 22, 10 previous arrests. "Felony arrest for assault with a gun."

* D-Dog, 20, two previous arrests. "Felony arrest for robbery."

* Sniper, 17, three previous arrests. "Felony arrest for assault--sentenced to eight years prison."

Two youths on the list died. One was shot in a South-Central Los Angeles gunfight. Another walked through a plate-glass window in Orange County while under the influence of drugs.

In at least one case, a targeted gang member went to Paramount's new substation and asked about the program. Then he announced his intention to leave the city. He has not been seen in town since, West said.

"And there are some that just grow out of (gangbanging), but they are few and far between," Sgt. Peggy O'Neal said.

According to Sheriff's Capt. John Anderson, all 25 youths on the initial list are in jail or have moved out of town.

Deputies closest to the program say it is nearly impossible to give an exact count of how many gang members have left town. Sometimes, the list changes quickly as deputies receive new information on who has been sent to jail or has moved.

To get on the list, a youth must be a gang member as defined by state law, meaning he or she must claim membership to a gang whose members engage in criminal activity, O'Neal said. After that one criterion is met, selection to the target list becomes more subjective. A violent history is certainly a common denominator, but not all have been arrested for violent acts.

One youth, who goes by the street name Toro, was added to the list after he was shot at twice by "rival gang members," said Public Safety Director Robert D. Robinson. Toro's mother was caught in the cross-fire once, suffering bullet wounds in her face. Another time, cheerleader Sheila Lorta, 16, was killed by a bullet probably meant for Toro, Robinson said.

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