Dozens arrested in Santa Ana gang sweep

Local and federal authorities fanned out through Orange County Thursday morning and arrested more than a dozen suspects in a
crackdown on a Santa Ana street gang.

"Operation Black Rhino'' was focused on the Townsend Street gang, one of the 'most violent, most active'' in the county, Santa Ana police Chief David Valentin said.

The FBI Orange County Violent Gang Task Force initiated the crackdown in April, and on Thursday police executed search warrants at 15 locations, Valentin said. Orange County sheriff's deputies, meanwhile, conducted cell searches of some gang members in custody, he said.

Police rounded up 13 suspects, including two on probation violations, the chief said.

Authorities also seized two assault rifles, including one equipped with a silencer, several handguns, $16,000 in cash, a bulletproof vest and three pounds of methamphetamine and cocaine.

Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said his agency will take the lead on prosecuting the suspects, who are expected to be charged and arraigned on Tuesday.

Spitzer said it was "impressive'' how "cohesively'' the task force has operated. The Townsend Street gang is "one of the oldest and most prolific gangs'' in the county, Spitzer said.

"No one should have to live with this scourge'' of gangs, he said.

Spitzer said the county's anti-gang efforts also include the Gang Reduction and Intervention Partnership, which rewards local youths who
participate in programs to steer them away from gangs.

Paul Walters, who heads the District Attorney's unit of investigators and was formerly Santa Ana police chief, said the gang dates back to the 1980s and came into prominence in the 1990s.

The arrested suspects include some who have a criminal past that includes attempted murder and murder, officials said.

The gang, which has 112 documented members is active from Raitt Street to Jerome Park and from McFadden Avenue to Wilshire Avenue, Valentin said.