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‘Sandy Catalina’ – Haven For Gangbangers?

From those celebrants of the gorgeous mosaic at the Associated Press:

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy David Mertens talks about the gang problem in Avalon, Calif., on Catalina Island, Thursday, July 3, 2008.

Cops fear Calif. isle is turning gangster paradise

By GILLIAN FLACCUS, Associated Press Writer

AVALON, Calif. – It seems even 22 miles of open ocean might not be keeping gangs off Catalina Island, a mist-shrouded outpost of Los Angeles County best known for its Hollywood history and crystal-clear harbors.

Deputies on the isle say a fledgling gang called the Brown Pride Locos has gotten a foothold among the beaches, coves and tourist shops. A stabbing, burglaries and graffiti are being blamed on the gang, and deputies last month surprised teenagers practicing moves with knives on a dark bluff above Avalon’s crescent-shaped bay.

A swift crackdown has netted at least six arrests and led to a pair of police raids — but it has also caused an uproar in the tiny community, where residents leave their doors unlocked and putt around in golf carts…

Deputy David Mertens, a six-year gang enforcement veteran from Los Angeles, is trying to gain the upper hand before the violence escalates.

"Before I transferred here, I came to do my interview and I was shocked," said Mertens, who was brought in with a new commander late last year. "I could not believe all these gangsters walking around and all these drug deals going on right in the open." …

Catalina is accessible only by private plane or boat. A strict limit on cars means most residents cruise Avalon’s 2 square miles by foot, bike or golf cart…

Others feel that deputies are profiling Hispanic teens who are the children of the maids, cooks and waiters who fuel the island’s tourist industry.

"I’ve been here 19 years and there are no gangs here. It’s ridiculous," said 26-year-old Evelyn Cano. "They see shaved heads and tattoos, and that’s a gang to them."

But deputies insist there’s a problem on Catalina, although they aren’t sure exactly how it started. There are groups by the same — or similar — names in San Pedro and Long Beach, where ferries depart daily for Catalina. Mertens believes the group has quietly expanded to about 50 members since 2004.

Tensions flared when deputies launched a pair of raids in the past few weeks.

A SWAT team from Los Angeles helped deputies in a search for drugs and gang evidence at the house of an alleged Brown Pride Locos leader. No one was arrested.

On July 2, nearly four dozen mainland deputies came ashore in four boats and two helicopters and hauled away six suspected gang members for alleged probation violations. The youngest was 15.

Lt. Ed Cook said his staff has spotted suspected members of the Florencia 13 gang — a South Los Angeles gang with ties to the Mexican Mafia — with local teens. And deputies are hearing rumors that Brown Pride Locos are feuding internally and may split.

"When that happens, we’ll really have problems because right now they’re just one gang," Cook said. "They don’t like each other, but at least they’re all together."

Some residents support the crackdown. Grocery store supervisor Brian Vidaillet, 31, said he recently turned over a possible gang member who was stealing alcohol from his store. Vidaillet, who moved to Catalina a year ago, said residents are angry because they are used to being left alone.

"I think there’s a problem," he said. "If we don’t do anything now, it’ll grow. It’s like a cancer." …

What ever happened to the country we once knew?

This article was posted by Steve on Friday, July 11th, 2008. Comments are currently closed.

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