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Saturday, 7 February 2009

Two out of every 100 people in Merced County are gang members.

Documented gangs in Merced County

MERCED
Blood Asian Crip
Oriental Troop
True Blue
Rebels Before Locs (Norteno)
Dead End Locs (Norteno)
Loughborough Locs (Norteno)
Westside Merced (Norteno)
12th Street (Norteno)
Merced Ghetto Boys (Norteno)
Merced Gangster Crips
M Street (Norteno)
Nortenos for Life (Norteno)
Loc'd Out Crip
Asian Crip
Men of Destruction
Home Boys Only
Bloods
Players Nation Wide
Bay Area Youngsters
Surenos
Merced Peckerwoods
Hells Angels MC (biker gang, also in Los Banos)
Barhoppers MC (biker gang)
Nazi Lowriders
Peckerwood
Southside Locs (Sureno)
Crips N' Thugs
LOS BANOS
Illinois Avenue Trece (Sureno)
Territorial Sur Trece (Sureno, also in Dos Palos)
Varrio Sur Trece (Sureno)
West Side (Norteno)
East Side San Jose (Norteno)
East Side Los Banos (Norteno)
Garden Block (Norteno)
Mogols MC (biker gang)
Hells Angels MC (biker gang)
WINTON/ATWATER
A-Town (Sureno)
Winton Varrio Parke (Sureno)
Los Primos (Sureno)
South Side Loc (Sureno)
Willow Street (Sureno)
Poco Puero Loco (Sureno)
DELHI
Delhi Locs (Norteno)
Ghost Town Surenos)
Los Primos (Sureno)
LIVINGSTON
Livas (Norteno)
PLANADA
Varrio Planada X (Norteno)
Puero Sur Trece (Sureno)
LE GRAND
Nortenos
Le Grand Locs
Varrio Le Grand (Norteno)
GUSTINE
Central Valley Surenos
Central Valley Crew (also in Santa Nella)
DOS PALOS
Dos Palos Gang (Norteno)
Northside Dos Palos (Norteno)
Northside Varrio Locos
Territorial Sur Trece (Sureno)
Source: Merced County Multi-Agency Gang Task Force
Most people wouldn't recognize the dress code. But to the streetwise, it's clear he's a true-blue Sureno gangbanger. Agents Mike Baker and Shane Kensey of the Merced Multi-Agency Gang Task Force quickly handcuff him and his 20-year-old friend and sit them on a curb in Atwater.As if the blue clothes weren't enough of a flag, the 22-year-old stocky man they're interviewing is wearing another traditional Sureno symbol, engraved on his silver metal belt buckle: the number 13.One thing's for sure -- he's dodging Baker and Kensey's questions as if they were 9-millimeter rounds."A-Town? Willow Street? Southside Locs?" Baker asks, rattling off the names of Sureno gangs, as the man sits next to his friend. He shakes his head to each of those names. "I don't bang," he insists.Moments later, Kensey removes from the car a light blue marijuana bong and a CD case with the words "Varrio Los Primos" written across it in blue ink. Los Primos is a Sureno gang common to the Winton and Atwater area.Only a few crumbs of marijuana are found in the Sureno's car. The reason Baker and Kensey pulled him over in the first place was for driving through a stop sign.
That's not enough for the officers to make an arrest, but they have accomplished one goal. They've photographed the man and his tattoos. They've logged his personal information and address on a "field information" card, a small sheet containing details about the suspected gang member.That information will be entered into the task force's computer database, accessible to any law enforcement department in the county.Based on this Sureno gang member's lifestyle, Kensey says it's probably only a matter of time before the man commits a more serious crime. And when he does, at least he'll already be known to law enforcement. "We don't need him to admit (being a gang member). Based on what we see, right now we're going to validate him," Kensey explains.Just another day in the life of the Merced Multi-Agency Gang Task Force, one of the county's newest tools to combat what Merced County District Attorney Larry Morse II calls the county's "No. 1 law enforcement challenge."
That may sound like a tall claim, but the task force has compiled sobering data to back it up. In a county with an estimated population of 255,250, the task force believes about 5,627 of those people are documented gang members. That's roughly 2 percent. Since last year, the task force has documented 54 gangs in Merced County.
Morse, who spearheaded the year-old task force, estimates that one in three homicides in Merced County is gang-related. There are few specific data about the number of recent gang crimes in Merced County. Law enforcement experts agree that's because witnesses and victims of those crimes rarely cooperate with law enforcement, out of fear of retaliation by the gangs. Naturally, that makes it hard to confirm which crimes are gang-related and which aren't. The sheriff's department reported nine gang homicides between 2005 and 2008. Merced police reported 19 gang homicides between 2004 and 2008, based on the initial reports of each investigating officer. And officials admit those numbers are extremely conservative.

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