May 8, 2010 12:05 AM by Monica Quintero
Santa Maria police come down hard on what they say is the largest gang in the city, the "West Park Criminal Street Gang." They arrested 35 people associated with the gang in the past 30 hours alone. They also showed us a sample of what they seized. The chief of police responded to criticism that his department hasn't done enough to combat gang activity in the city. He said much of the department's work is done out of the public eye.
The total take included 25 pounds of marijuana, 23 firearms, two of which were stolen, and $74,000 in cash. Santa Maria Police Chief Danny Macagni said, "Gangs are part of our society. It's a problem here." A serious problem, admits Chief Macagni. This investigation zeroed in on the West Park Gang. Over the past 30 hours, police arrested 35 people associated with the gang at 40 locations throughout the area. Charges include conspiracy, transporting cocaine and methamphetamines and possession of explosives and firearms. Chief Macagni said, "The issue with these gangs are they are born and raised here, you can't just throw them out of town."
One of those raids took place Friday morning on the 800-block of Cornell Court. Over the last two days, 145 law enforcement officials from multiple agencies in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties assisted in rounding up the suspected criminals. He said, "People just need to have a little bit of patience." The chief of police responded to criticism the department hasn't been doing enough to fight gang activity in the city. He said this investigation has been going on for a year, mostly out of the public eye. Chief Macagni said, "Work with us. Instead of just being very vocal about what we are and are not doing."
Police said the West Park Gang has around 800 members and 300 to 400 known associates. Officers also said those gang members are as young as 14, and as old as 40. Santa Maria police said they do expect additional arrests in the days and weeks to come.
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