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Gangs in the Region

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Aliens with gang ties are turning up in Isles

Source: Honolulu Advertiser

Federal, state and county law-enforcement officials are concerned about the number of illegal aliens turning up in Hawai'i who have ties to international street gangs linked to drug distribution, prostitution, drive-by shootings, alien smuggling and attacks on law-enforcement officers.

During the past 12 months, nine aliens have been arrested in Hawai'i who have ties to various criminal gangs, law enforcement officials said yesterday.

According to information presented at a press briefing, two of the nine men were Vietnamese nationals with ties to the Vietnamese "Black Crew" gang; four were Mexican and affiliated with the Surenos gang; two were from El Salvador with suspected ties to a gang called MS-13; and one was from South Korea and was believed to be affiliated with the Ciro gang.

U.S. Attorney Ed Kubo described MS-13 as a "particularly vicious" criminal organization and said it has an estimated worldwide membership of about 50,000. About 10,000 members are believed to be in the United States, spread out among more than 30 states, including Hawai'i.

In its current issue, Newsweek magazine calls MS-13 one of the most dangerous street gangs in America.

Although the nine men arrested have ties to violent organizations, their gang affiliations were established after they were arrested for relatively minor offenses such as traffic violations, possession of small amounts of drugs, misdemeanor domestic abuse, driving under the influence, possessing burglary tools and car theft.

But Maui County Police Chief Thomas Phillips said investigators believe alien gang members may also have been responsible for shooting at Maui police officers who were attending an off-duty barbecue.

"The migration of Mainland and foreign street gang members to Maui County and Hawai'i (in general) is a disturbing trend," Phillips said.

For the most part, background checks after their arrests uncovered the gang affiliations of the nine men, officials said.

Wayne Wills, special agent in charge for investigations undertaken by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Hawai'i, said street gangs "pose a growing safety threat to communities throughout Hawai'i.

"The violence, sophistication and scope of these organizations have reached intolerable levels in larger metropolitan areas," Wills said. "We are committed to partnering with our local, state and federal associates to dismantle these criminal organizations and prevent them from embedding in our communities."

Six of the nine men with suspected gang ties were arrested on Maui and the other three on O'ahu. Seven of the nine appeared to have entered the country illegally, across either the Canadian or Mexican border, Wills said. Once in the U.S., the men probably took domestic flights to Hawai'i and were able to enter the state without any immigration screening, Wills said.

Two of the nine men arrested during the past year had been deported to their home countries on at least one previous occasion and entered the U.S. again illegally.

Javier Martinez-Arrellano was arrested on Maui in August 2005. He had prior convictions on the Mainland for carrying a concealed weapon and stealing vehicles, according to a background synopsis presented at the briefing yesterday. He was convicted in federal court in Honolulu of re-entering the United States illegally since his deportation and was sentenced to 16 months in federal prison.

Officials say Martinez-Arrellano, a Mexican national, is affiliated with the Surenos and 18th Street gangs.

*Its disturbing and sad trend, although Hawaii has a had a long history of organized crime or gangs dating back to the days of the Yakuza and so on. However, i know that the hispanic/latino community on Maui like those that are trying to make an honest living are often profiled because there's a large illegal population there and some of which have been arrested for drug trafficking, crime, etc and so it really makes the hispanic community look bad and people suspicious of them. :(

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From the Star Bulletin:

Two members of one of the largest and most violent Hispanic gangs in the country were identified and arrested on Maui earlier this year, local police and federal law enforcement officials said yesterday.

Adin Coca and Francisco Orlando Osegueda-Gochez were arrested in February for crimes on Maui and were identified by members of the Maui Police Department gang detail as having an affiliation with the Salvadoran gang Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13, officials said.

Though neither man was arrested for offenses directly involving gang activity, federal officials said they were worried about gang members' presence in Hawaii because of the violence to which MS-13 has been linked.

"MS-13 smuggles illicit drugs, primarily powdered cocaine and marijuana, into the United States and are known to transport and distribute the drugs throughout the country," said U.S. Attorney Ed Kubo. "They are also involved in alien smuggling, assault, drive-by shooting, homicides, ID theft, prostitution operations, robbery and weapons trafficking."

According to the FBI and other federal officials, members of MS-13 in other states have also been affiliated with hacking off the fingers of their rivals with machetes, murdering suspected informants -- one of them a 17-year-old pregnant girl -- and attacking and threatening law enforcement officers, including the execution of three federal agents. The organization reportedly has 30,000 to 50,000 members internationally, of which 8,000 to 10,000 are in the United States.

The two MS arrests on Maui were part of Operation Shield, a nationwide anti-gang initiative led by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Working with county police, FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office, Operation Shield arrested, and in most cases deported, a total of nine foreign gang members statewide.

"Street gangs pose a growing public safety threat to communities throughout the state of Hawaii," said Wayne Willis, special agent in charge for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Honolulu. "The violence, sophistication and scope of these organizations have reached intolerable levels in larger metropolitan areas."

Some, like Coca, were arrested for nongang-related offenses such as driving under the influence, domestic abuse and contempt of court warrants but were later identified as gang members through tattoos and other gang paraphernalia. Coca admitted being an MS-13 member, and he identified Osegueda-Gochez as another member, officials said.

Maui detective Clyde Holokai said Coca had been living on Maui for eight years and was working in the construction business but was still getting new MS-related tattoos.

"He had one with the demon with devil horns. ... That one was fresh," Holokai said. "He wasn't active but the affiliation was there."

Osegueda-Gochez was said to have an alias complete with a fake green card and fake Social Security card, which were used to get on a domestic flight to Hawaii and get employment on Maui. The other gang members who were deported by federal officials include:

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Here's some news about gangs in Anchorage

Gangs in Anchorage

Source: Anchorage Daily News

The bang sounded like a firecracker. Then 12-year-old Tupou Pea felt the burning on his back and leg.


He had been shot.

Someone had fired at Tupou from a passing SUV early in the morning May 26 as he rode with his father and brother on their way to pick up newspapers for delivery.

Police say the Samoan boy and his family may have been mistaken for gang members.

Over the past year, gang wars in Anchorage have escalated to a new level. Suddenly police reports sound like bad news from some inner city Outside: innocent bystanders caught in drive-by shootings, ambushes on residential homes, shoot-outs in public parking lots.

"This is the thing we've worried about since the beginning," said deputy chief Ross Plummer. "Where a neighborhood gets shot up and an innocent person gets hit."

"We have to focus on gangs. They are here. They are a reality. We can't say that they are not," said deputy chief Rob Heun, who will become police chief later this year. At the announcement of his appointment last week, Heun said he will make combating the gang problem a top priority.


Police estimate there are a dozen gangs in Anchorage, with a total of about 115 members. There are another 130 to 150 people police call gang "associates," meaning people known to hang out with them, support them and sometimes take part in their criminal activities.

Detectives say many of the recent reports of gunfire around the city seem to be related to the slaying of a 17-year-old boy, shot three months ago in East Anchorage, and perhaps to three other gang-related homicides since March 2005.

Anchorage has had gangs since at least the early 1980s, but their presence ebbs and flows. This year has seen a dramatic increase, authorities say.

"It used to be that there would be a fist fight on a Friday afternoon over some girl. Now people drive around shooting at each other for four or five months over the issue," said Mark Mew, a former deputy police chief who has watched the unfolding tensions among teenagers as head of security for the Anchorage School District.

Plummer agrees: "They have no real qualms about using firearms on people that have offended them."

Inter-gang rivalries usually start out small: a wayward glance or accidental bump in a crowded place and someone decides he's "being disrespected" or somebody is "talking smack" about him. Petty beefs escalate quickly, especially when guns are available. And guns can be found anywhere if you are an Anchorage teenager, say both police and gang members.

Waving a gun around quickly turns into shots fired, which in turn become shots aimed to kill.

In Anchorage, gangs form in a variety of ways. Some are merely kids from the same neighborhood who band together and make up a name to call themselves, according to authorities. Others are formed by young gang members from the Lower 48 who have moved to Alaska with their parents and bring vestiges of their old lives with them.

Names like Outlaws, Soulja's Crew, Juvenile Delinquents and Tiny Rascals come and go. Some are local creations. Some, like Tiny Rascals, a name used by one of the largest Asian gangs in America, are lifted from Outside.

The names evolve or change or produce spin-offs, like the Hamo Tribe, a Samoan gang, which had a spin-off called the Baby Hamos for younger teens.

Cops don't like to use gang names because they believe it gives them status on the streets -- and, of course, it's not illegal to be in a gang, they say. It's what the gangs do that is illegal.

Anchorage gangs are different from gangs Outside, said Dean Williams, a juvenile- justice superintendent at McLaughlin Youth Center and a member of the city's anti-gang task force. No two cities are identical, but Anchorage stands apart because it has a transient population, kids who have recently moved here with their families -- in many cases to escape the economic and social problems endemic to inner cities.

Police agree. Anchorage is unusual mostly because of the state's isolation, they say. We do not have generational gangs that have existed since the 1950s with older, hard-core members, Plummer said. Nor do we have the decades of poverty and disenfranchisement of people that breeds gangs.

"We don't have a ghetto in Anchorage ...We don't have hard-core housing projects," he said.

"These people are doing it because they choose to, not because of economic hardship."

Anchorage gangs can be primarily one ethnic or racial group. There are Samoan gangs, Asian gangs and black gangs. But there is variation in each gang and no hard and fast rules, Williams said. They tend to be less territorial here, more multicultural, and their make-up is very fluid compared with Lower 48 gangs, he said.

Kids, mostly boys, join gangs when they are as young as 12 or 13. Calil Gross-Mininall was shot and killed in March 2005 at Dimond Center. He was 14.

Lt. Gardner Cobb, head of the cops in schools program, said gang members are in the schools.

School security director Mew said Bartlett, East and West high schools typically have problems, but other schools do too. "We are working really hard to suppress it across the board and to keep it from migrating from the streets to the schools."

Identifying which students are problems is sometimes difficult, he said. "You've got this style out there promoted by movies and music ... You know, they all want to be like gangsters. That's what the kids aspire to be. That's not helpful. It's difficult to tell the wannabes from the real McCoys."

Williams said the breakdown of who is in gangs, where they come from and why they form is a nascent area of study for the city. Little is tracked or known, he said, although the city and law enforcement are working on that.

Recent changes in local gangs make getting accurate information even more important. Anchorage gangs may have started as social networks, but they are now organizing criminal enterprises to make money, Plummer said. They are branching out into drug dealing, auto theft and stealing from vehicles.


Four people have been killed in recent revenge shootings that started escalating in March 2005, police say: Gross-Mininall, Tinius Talamaivao, 20, Marcus Watkins, 20, and Abraham Tauanu'u, 17. At least a dozen others have been shot, including the brothers of Talamaivao and Watkins.

Tauanu'u is the latest to have died. He was riding in a vehicle near DeBarr Road and Boniface Parkway around 11 p.m. March 24 when someone in another vehicle opened fire.

It was the third time he had been shot since 2004.

Sgt. Gil Davis, head of the assault unit that handles most of the cases, has been watching the gang rivalries unfold. He said the assaults share similar characteristics: drive-by shootings, reluctant witnesses and uncooperative victims who show up at hospitals refusing to talk to police.

Police respond to calls and find shell casings, but by then the shooters have scattered.

To combat the rise in gang violence, police have shifted cops in schools, increased patrols and made deals with businesses to break up gang gathering spots. Police are also patrolling more in areas where there have been drive-bys and where gangs hang out, including a hard-hit neighborhood along the north end of Muldoon Road where, police say, gangs like to gather late at night in parking lots.

"I don't know why they've picked this part of town, other than it's just become 'the place,' " said Skip Winfree, owner of 10th and M Seafoods on Muldoon Road.

Winfree said the sound of gunshots in the neighborhood has increased in the past several months. "It used to be happening in late hours. Now it's starting to happen during the day."

His building was damaged when a gunman shot and injured two teenage girls in a nearby parking lot at 4 a.m. in early April. Police later arrested 21-year-old Darian Patterson and charged him with attempted murder. He is at the Anchorage jail, awaiting trial.

Police are keeping a closer watch on the neighborhood, with extra officers and extra patrols, they said.

Muldoon business owners around Peck and Duben avenues, including Winfree, have agreed to erect "No Trespassing" signs, which police then enforce, including by towing vehicles.

"What we really want to do is give the ability to the police to take the bad ones and get them off the street," Winfree said "We don't want to run them to another area. We are hoping the real worst of them will be thrown in jail for a long time."

Sherman "Tank" Jones, who owns two clubs in the neighborhood, sees it a little differently. Some of the late-nighters are his customers, and he says police are overstating the problem. "Gangs taking over Muldoon?" he asked. "Where?"

"This is a hip-hop generation. Just because you have a do-rag hanging out of your pocket and you can do the gang signs doesn't make you a gang member. Half of these people have jobs and just want to let loose," he said.

Jones supports more police in the neighborhood, though. It's better for business, he says.

Police are also considering a buy-back or amnesty program for stolen guns and ammunition. Police spokesman Lt. Paul Honeman said the department is checking whether such programs have worked in other cities.

Gang members are not likely to turn in guns, police acknowledge. But one idea is to give gang members and other criminals one month to turn in their guns, then go hard after those who don't. Another is to have a "Gun Stoppers" phone line, similar to Crime Stoppers, for people to call in tips on stolen guns, Honeman said.

This all comes after two cases where bystanders -- including 12-year-old Tupou -- were struck by flying bullets.

Tupou, his father and his younger brother were driving on Karluk Street near 15th Avenue when the passenger in a Chevy Suburban with its lights off fired at them about six times.

Father Tavita Pea said he had to steer with one hand on the wheel while he pulled his kids down in their SUV with the other and sped for help. Doctors left the bullets in his body and Tupou returned to school, the family said.

The other injured bystander is Christopher Pryce, 24. A bullet burst through the wall of his Muldoon apartment May 14 while he was sitting at his computer and lodged in his neck. A few days later, Pryce vowed to leave Anchorage for a safer place.

Since last spring, when the mayor announced the formation of the city's gang task force, police and other law enforcement authorities have begun compiling a database of gang members, which includes criminal history and reports of gang-type activity from various sources. Once on the list, a gang member has to stay clean for five years to be removed, Plummer said.

One of the worries about gangs, according to Williams, is their ability to grow. "Gang kids tend to breed other gang kids," he said. "I don't care what the numbers are, if we have gang kids doing their activities, the risk is they are going to recruit more kids.

"I think we should definitely be concerned."

Plummer said, "I don't think people should live in fear. ... But I think they should have concern."

"We don't want this in our community."

It's a frustrating battle, but police say they have scored victories. They've arrested dozens of known gang members so far this year. On May 25, they scooped up four men after shots were fired toward a rival gang in an East Anchorage trailer park, according to the prosecution's court documents. Police say one of the men arrested, Alberto Hiraldo-Zayas, 20, was at the Dimond Center shoot-out that killed Gross-Mininall.


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