Residents briefed on local gang activity
Last updated 4/5/2007 at Noon
On March 27, a group of concerned and proactive locals attended the Fallbrook Citizen’s Crime Prevention meeting at Zion Lutheran Church to hear important information from San Diego County Sheriff’s Detective Joe Montion and Lieutenant Derek Clark regarding gang activity in town.
Montion stated that “everyone” in town should be educated regarding the street gang in Fallbrook, the Varrio Fallbrook Locos (VFL). His talk encompassed VFL paraphernalia and their current hangouts.
The detective claims there are currently 140 members in the VFL. “The ages range from 14 to 25 years old,” he said. “There are a few older members who are in their 30s.” He added that some older gang members are currently in prison; one is serving a 50-year-plus sentence.
Montion said that gang paraphernalia is one of the ways officials identify gang members. At this meeting, residents had the opportunity to view some of these confiscated items. He mentioned that, typically, gang members are bold with their affiliation, so it is not very difficult to spot one.
Some clues to the appearance of a VFL member:
• The number 13 on clothing, a tattoo, a car or a bike or written on any item (belt buckles and sunglasses, for instance)
• Gang member names, otherwise known as monikers (examples: “Bumpy,” “Sleepy”) on clothing
• Blue bandannas
• Music containing lyrics relating to drugs, rape and/or shooting officers
Montion mentioned that some gang members may simply wear darker colors, such as a gray or black striped shirt.
He also said that some of the gang’s primary hangout areas include the 1200 block of South Vine Street (the big hill behind a fast food restaurant), the 1000 to 1300 block of Old Stage Road and the Fallbrook Creek area (the 200 block of West Aviation).
Montion urged residents to report gang activity in progress. For those who are fearful of retaliation, Montion said callers may remain anonymous to protect identity. “Call 9-1-1 and we will respond,” he stated.
He went on to say that gang members are opportunists and will do their best to control a given area. This is why residents need to “become empowered” and join forces with law enforcement channels. According to Montion, if residents ignore this activity, gang membership will increase, as will the crime rate. “We can’t give that to them,” he said.
Montion said that the Fallbrook Citizen’s Crime Prevention/Neighborhood Rehab Committee has done an extraordinary job in helping officials. He said their mentoring program and other efforts in the area have been quite successful. In the last two years, VFL membership has dropped from 176 to one hundred forty.
Lt. Clark, Commander of the North Regional Task Force, explained his overall focus, which includes involvement with all law enforcement agencies in the North County area. This unit, explained Clark, deals with larger crimes.
“Gangs are developing, and have been developing, over the last number of years into what is described as ongoing criminal enterprises. We deal with the gangs in that fashion.”
He asserted that gangs are “getting into extortion, racketeering, narcotics transportation and distribution and firearms.” Because gang crimes appear to now be more sophisticated, so are the investigations, which can last up to a couple of years.
“Some of our investigations initiate here locally,” Clark said, “not just here in Fallbrook but throughout the North County areas, and they fan out across the United States.”
Clark explained that several cases his unit has prosecuted fall into the category of racketeering. When these gang members have been prosecuted, he said, they are not just getting a wrist-slapping state sentence. Instead, these are federal offenses prosecuted under Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) statutes.
“This is the same statutes that the federal government uses to prosecute the Mafia and La Costra Nostra,” said Clark.
In addition, he said, some gangs are advertising their profiles on the Web.
“For the parents in the crowd here, if your kids are playing around on MySpace.com, break their computer,” he said. Clark said some gang members blatantly and proudly expose their identities on communication sites. He added that if kids have access to the Internet, parents need to investigate the links their kids have logged on to.
“This stuff [gangs on the Web] is just as dangerous, if not more dangerous, than the pornography that is on the Internet,” said Clark.
He stated that gang activity makes a significant impact on the lives of all residents. “No person or community is immune to gangs. With that said, law enforcement needs the help of its community members because law enforcement can’t do it all. We are not everywhere at every minute.”