Imperial Valley gangs on the rise, authorities say

EL CENTRO, Calif. – A three-day operation in the Imperial Valley led to the arrest of 47 gang members.

Imperial County Narcotics Task Force (NTF) Commander Mike Lloyd says ten different agencies contributed to their capture.

“We do rely on all our other participating agencies,” Lloyd said.

Thirty-five agents hit the streets this past Thursday through Saturday on the search for known gang members accused of various crimes.

“Drug possession, weapons possession,” Lloyd said.

Lloyd says the NTF Gang Unit is a recent addition to fighting crime in Imperial County, “Because there was a void. There were no gang experts in the valley anymore. Nobody was actively working gangs.”

In just a year NTF arrested more than 200 gang members.

“By documenting gang members when they do commit a crime, and they’re documented, then that allows the courts to add an enhancement to their sentence which they otherwise wouldn’t have,” Lloyd said.

Authorities say gang activity is on the rise.

“Seventeen gangs, separate gangs, and at least conservatively 200 members,” Lloyd said.

Identifying them is a major task.

“When crimes do occur, with the intelligence of who’s who and being able to identify guys by their monikers and that type of thing, it does benefit all the agencies,” Lloyd said.

Calipatria Chamber of Commerce President Frank Gracia says he fears the recent arrests could be a growing trend in local gang activity.

“Sooner or later we’re going to be becoming like L.A. style. Already there has been some shootings around here,” Garcia said.

Authorities say they’re working hard to curb the issue by taking the fight to the gangs.

“To make it where if you’re in a gang it’s not the most pleasant one,” Lloyd concluded.

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