Gang Crime is Undergoing Change

For Immediate Release
July 2nd, 2001

Contact: RGET Program Manager Mike Clesceri (714) 347-8416

EDITOR’S NOTE: Corrected version of press release.

Gang Crime is Undergoing Change

SANTA ANA — “The nature of gang crime is changing,” says Fullerton Police Chief Pat McKinley.  “Combating the specter of these emerging predatory mobile gangs is something that requires the combined resources of many law enforcement agencies.”  The joint response to the problem came into being quietly almost two years ago in the form of a multi-jurisdictional law enforcement task force that has become a national model.

An executive board composed of many leaders from federal, state, county and municipal law enforcement agencies was founded by District Attorney Tony Rackauckas. Today, McKinley serves as chairman and Santa Ana Police Chief Paul Walters is vice chairman of the executive group that oversees Orange County’s Regional Gang Enforcement Team (RGET).

“Most city police departments focus on traditional territorial gangs that threaten the community.  RGET augments those agencies and targets mobile gangs that seek financial rather than physical territory,” said Mike Clesceri, Program Manager of the O.C. Regional Gang Enforcement Team.  “Gangsters who become the focus of RGET’s enforcement activities are usually more sophisticated, more experienced and older than the youth gangs generally encountered by law enforcement gang units.  Their activities cross jurisdictional boundaries and a multi-jurisdictional solution was needed.”

The FBI was the foremost recipient of direct support from RGET in 2000, which spent 1,151 hours working with special agents on major cases involving mobile gangs.  To further support federal and state efforts, the Federal Office of Justice Planning provided a grant of almost $3 million to augment RGET.

“Even though RGET has been widely touted in law enforcement circles for their achievements, most of the work undertaken by the task force is done behind the scenes.   The team has already received recognition for their noteworthy success,” Walters said. In February, the California Narcotics Officer’s Association presented RGET with its prestigious “Major Narcotics Case” of the year for 2000, a rare instance when such an award is given to a gang unit.

In March, they received special recognition from the Orange County Korean Institute for Human Rights for their work in a 1995 home invasion robbery and murder of Linda Park in Irvine.  RGET played a key role in developing the case against alleged murderers Ron Tran and Noel Plata who are charged with murder. In April, RGET received the highest award given by the International Association of Asian Crime Investigators for their “outstanding contribution to Asian crime investigation.”

“Working with nationally recognized technical firms, RGET is developing what is believe to be the most sophisticated law enforcement electronics system in the United States today.  This will supplement the grit and shoe leather generally associated with taking down organized criminal enterprises,” Clesceri said.  “Our mandate was to break the mold and be innovative in our approach.  We are doing things that work and we are pursuing technology to make the streets safer for everyone.  We appreciate the funding from the federal government that made this possible.”

All the technology in the world can not replace the help RGET receives from the public directly.  Investigators established a toll-free number that citizens can call to report gang activities and criminal enterprises.  When they call 866-230-7580, they can leave a message, share information or they can leave a name and telephone number and their call will be returned.  RGET investigators are multi-lingual, culturally diverse and are sensitive to the special needs and problems of Orange County’s increasingly diverse population.

“Part of breaking the mold for us also includes studies conducted by some of the most respected academics in the country into the phenomenon of highly mobile organized gangs that have some of their roots here in the Orange County Region,” Rackauckas said. The landmark studies sponsored by RGET focus on some of the crimes committed by mobile gangs: home invasion robbery, identity theft and narcotics trafficking. “We don’t know what these academic studies will show, but we hope they will help us focus our efforts and resources in the best possible places to impact these violent predators,” Rackauckas added.