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Ventura County launches new effort to track gangs

Times Staff Writer

Prompted by rising gang crime in unincorporated areas, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved creation of a special sheriff’s gang patrol.

The detail of two deputies, a senior deputy and a sergeant will track gang activity in the Ojai Valley, Fillmore and unincorporated communities near Ventura and Santa Paula at an annual cost of $792,000.

Sheriff’s officials estimate there are more than 500 active gang members and 11 active gangs in the targeted areas, contributing to an increase in violent assaults, robberies and graffiti.

This year, three people were fatally shot in Saticoy, all by suspected gang members, authorities said. There have been several other shootings and beatings tied to gangs in the El Rio, Saticoy and Ojai areas, they said.

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The board’s unanimous support for the gang detail comes three years after Sheriff Bob Brooks disbanded a similar countywide unit to save money.

Revenues have rebounded enough to begin rebuilding the detail, though it will be smaller and will focus exclusively on gangs, said Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Geoff Dean. Oxnard and other large cities have their own gang enforcement units, he said.

Several supervisors said residents have complained about a rise in gang graffiti on neighborhood walls, highway signs and even agricultural netting. Supervisor Steve Bennett said a similar gang unit has curbed violence in Ventura.

“People say everyone knows who the gang members are, but building a case takes a while,” Bennett said. “I saw it work very effectively in Ventura.”

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catherine.saillant@latimes.com


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