A law enforcement operation involving over 200 personnel in Venice and surrounding communities early Thursday, July 9th resulted in the arrests of several alleged Venice gang members or associates for federal or state drug charges, authorities said.
The task force consisting of FBI agents and Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) investigators served 28 search and arrest warrants at about 6 a.m. in a coordinated operation in Venice, Santa Monica, Culver City, Inglewood, and south Los Angeles areas, according to the FBI.
The operation led to the arrests of nine alleged members or associates of the Venice Shoreline Crips gang and one member of the Venice 13 gang who were charged federally with conspiracy to distribute and/or distribution of cocaine base in the form of crack cocaine, among other charges, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.
According to multiple indictments filed under seal in U.S. District Court, some of the defendants are accused of accepting payment for making deals between suppliers and buyers of crack cocaine, while others are suspected of supplying cocaine to buyers.
Ten other individuals associated with the Venice gang, including juveniles, face state charges filed in Los Angeles Superior Court for their roles in the drug distribution operation, Eimiller alleged. Approximately ten parole and probation searches were conducted under the task force effort, resulting in several additional arrests.
The eight-month investigation targeted those who are suspected of being drug suppliers and distributors in Venice and the surrounding communities, Eimiller said. The effort was initiated late last year by the FBI/LAPD task force, which addresses gang-related crime in Los Angeles, to curtail violence reported by various local police agencies, she said.
“We know that the presence of drugs in any community will fuel violence,” Eimiller said.
The FBI/LAPD task force was assisted in its investigation by the Santa Monica and Culver City police departments, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office’s Project TOUGH, which focuses on property abatements through lawsuits against property owners and gang members that seek injunctive relief. Eimiller praised the collaboration between the law enforcement agencies which led to an operation without any major complications.
“It was a great cooperative working relationship and all the arrests went smoothly,” the FBI spokeswoman described.
Residents in the Oakwood section of Venice had blasted a similar law enforcement operation in their neighborhood in February 2008, claiming that police forcibly entered their homes and in some cases, pointed guns at them during the raid. The operation, known as “Operation Oakwood,” led to the arrest of 19 alleged members or associates of the Shoreline Crips and was part of an effort by authorities to crack down on gang-controlled properties.
LAPD Pacific officers met with community members at town hall events following the raid to address the police department tactics and listen to resident concerns.
Venice Neighborhood Council member Stan Muhammad, co-founder of the gang intervention organization Venice 2000, said he noticed improvements in the way the most recent operation was handled, noting that he hadn’t heard of any incidents between police and residents.
The ten defendants facing federal charges made an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles July 9th. If convicted, most of the federally charged defendants face maximum sentences of life imprisonment, Eimiller said.
The federally charged defendants will be prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, while those facing state charges in the case will be prosecuted by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office.