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Early-Morning Drug Sweep Results in 51 Arrests

TIMES STAFF WRITER

More than 80 law enforcement officers swarmed an Anaheim neighborhood just after dawn Friday, cracking down on what investigators described as a network of small time street dealers peddling crack cocaine and other contraband.

The raid ended with 51 arrests--including a former state parole officer and a woman accused of enlisting her two young daughters to sell narcotics. Most were held on suspicion of drug, parole or probation violations.

Investigators targeted a Ball Road apartment complex where some residents say they are afraid to come out after dark. Residents and police say the dealers often loiter in front of the brown-facade complex, exchanging “rocks” for money or stolen goods.

The arrests capped a three-month investigation into suspected drug trafficking by members of two well-known Los Angeles gangs whom police say have expanded their operation south to Orange County.

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“There are two different gangs, and they seem to work together to prosper,” Police Lt. David Severson said. “The sale of narcotics here has brought in bigger problems. Violence has definitely escalated recently.”

During the investigation, two Anaheim police officers went undercover in the Olive Plaza Apartments, posing as customers.

On Friday, three other detectives donned jeans, T-shirts and dark sunglasses to stage a reverse sting in the 2800 block of West Ball Road. The undercover officers stood in front of the complex and pretended to be drug dealers. Seven people were arrested after they tried to buy the fake rock cocaine just hours after the early morning raid, Severson said.

One of the alleged customers ordered seven rocks after sending another man to solicit the drug for him, Capt. Marc Hedgpeth said. As both men walked away, two police officers drove up and took them into custody.

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Deputy Dist. Atty. Carl Armbrust, who has prosecuted narcotics-related cases for more than 15 years, said the sale of crack cocaine in Orange County is mainly concentrated in areas such as the one targeted in Friday’s raid.

“When it comes to crack cocaine, our problems revolve around street dealers,” Armbrust said. “It’s not the large amounts, we don’t usually get large amounts. . . . It’s what’s sold on the street that causes us problems.”

Detectives began the undercover operation because of complaints relating to the narcotics sales.

Before Friday’s raid, authorities had arrested 39 other people suspected of drug offenses, as well as robbery and assault.

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“That’s a way you clean up a neighborhood,” Armbrust said. “You close things down for a while.”

Some residents at Olive Plaza Apartments who watched the raid from their homes expressed relief, saying “Thank you” as authorities marched the manacled suspects passed their homes.

Secilia Smith, 31, was more skeptical about whether the operation would bring peace to the neighborhood.

“It’s not going to stop crime from happening,” Smith said.

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Anaheim police were joined Friday morning by officers from the state Department of Justice, the Orange County district attorney’s office, the county Probation Department and the state Department of Parole.

Chrissy Brown, 18, said the raids were “unfair” because police were arresting parents in front of their children. Brown was visiting a 33-year-old friend, Saundra Dixon, who was arrested on suspicion of selling narcotics and pushing her two daughters, ages 12 and 16, to do the same.

Dixon had been sleeping on a blanket with her other two children, ages 2 and 3, when officers banged on the door.

“The kids are scared. They don’t know what’s going on,” Brown said. “There’s got to be a better way.”

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Also arrested was Barry John Gallegos, a 49-year-old man who was sleeping in his acrid motel room when police knocked on the door. He once worked as a state parole officer in Santa Ana and was fired after police officers found methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia at his home about two years ago, Severson said.

“It’s just sad,” said Severson, who investigated the initial case and was present Friday when Gallegos was arrested.


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