Wide California Gang Drug Sales Cited

From Associated Press

California street gangs, believed to control much of the illicit drug market in the Phoenix area, are spreading their influence to communities throughout Arizona, law enforcement officials say.

“Right now, based on actual count, we have identified 300 California gang members who are here and in surrounding communities,” Phoenix Police Chief Rubin Ortega told members of a House task force on gangs and drugs.

Ortega, Maricopa County Sheriff Tom Agnos, Department of Public Safety Director Ralph Milstead and Maricopa County Atty. Rick Romley all testified before the task force, which held its first meeting Friday.

Romley said the gangs have come to Arizona “because they have found a rich market here” for their drug dealings. He suggested that one way to deal with the problem is to “go after drug users” as well as dealers.

California-based gangs such as the Bloods and Crips not only are a major source of drugs in the Phoenix area, but they have recruited members in other communities, such as Eloy, Casa Grande and Tucson, Ortega said.