Sheriff's deputies, CHP team up to fight gangs
New program nets 9 arrests in 3 weekends
This story appeared in the Antelope Valley Press
Saturday, May 24, 2008.
Av Press full story
By BOB WILSON
Valley Press Staff Writer
LANCASTER - In only three weekends, patrolling teams of highway patrol officers and sheriff's deputies have made 330 traffic stops in search of gang members in the Antelope Valley.
The stops have resulted in nine arrests, including five felony arrests; the impounding of nine vehicles; and the issuance of 95 citations, including 12 for drunken driving, officials announced Friday.
The teams also have confiscated illegal firearms and collected additional information for use against gangs active in north Los Angeles County.
"This really is a remarkable program," Mayor R. Rex Parris said.
The teams, which post Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies in patrol cars with California Highway Patrol officers, are the first of their kind, Parris said.
The teams were created after Parris had a conversation with Dan Bower, assistant chief of the CHP's Southern Division, the mayor said.
He and Bower spoke the day after the April 8 Lancaster election. Three weeks later, the teams hit the streets, he said.
CHP officers are required to patrol in pairs at night, and by putting deputies in CHP cars, "we doubled the coverage" of the CHP, Parris said.
The Lancaster Sheriff's Station has been assigning gang control deputies to ride with the CHP officers, and the deputies are able to identify gang members traveling in the area, he said.
The program consists of six two-person patrol teams, plus two sergeants, and those 14 people "are essentially a small police force that moves in every Friday and Saturday," the mayor said.
"It's definitely become dangerous for gang members to drive around the Antelope Valley," he said. "Pretty soon it's going to become clear to the people living in L.A. that want to come up here to do their gangbanging that this is not the place to do it, and hopefully the (gang members) living here will move back to where they came from."
"This is a hostile environment for gangs and it's going to stay that way," Parris said.
Capt. Jerry Flavin, commander of the CHP's Lancaster office, said the teams increase the agency's local strength because they use state funds to pay for the officers participating in the anti-gang program.
The teams focus on vehicles carrying suspected gang participants, and use code violations and other reasons set forth under the law to stop and search vehicles carrying suspected gang members, said Capt. Axel Anderson, commander of the Lancaster station.
The CHP officers "have the expertise in getting those cars stopped, and the instructions are to make a lot of stops and contact a lot of people, and that gives the deputies (a chance) to use their expertise once we get the cars stopped," Flavin said, adding, "It's a beautiful relationship that's working very well."
Deputies on the teams would be on duty anyway, but the CHP officers are in addition to those normally on duty, "so citizens are getting our (regular) patrols plus" the teams, Flavin said.
"The most important part is that it doesn't cost either Palmdale or Lancaster any money," Parris noted.
"We literally got an extra police force without extra cost."
The effort "is probably going to be the highest-impact thing I will do the entire time I am mayor, and it happened the first day after I was elected," he said.