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Gang members drawn to quiet P.G.


Published: January 23, 2009

MORE GANG members are taking up residence in Pacific Grove, according to detective Adam Sepagan, who arrested one of them Jan. 14 for drug offenses and probation violation — specifically, possessing “gang indicia” such as clothing indicating his Sureño affiliation.

“They’re moving into town,” he said, citing the area of Arkwright Court, where apartments are abundant and cheap. “Unless they do something wrong and we catch them, we can’t ask them not to live here. We’d like to.”

It’s mostly Hispanic gangs, according to Sepagan, and while Norteños were predominant for a while, more Sureños are arriving as of late.

Their taking up residence in “America’s Last Hometown” marks a change from the past, when Pacific Grove was considered neutral territory for Monterey County’s prolific gangs.

“For the longest time, those people didn’t come to P.G., because they didn’t want to get caught for something like a taillight,” and then be found driving a stolen car or having an outstanding warrant, Sepagan said. “But as things are getting worse throughout the county, sometimes they come here because they want to get away from the violence and everything.”

And even if they come to Pacific Grove to get away from violence, they commit crimes once they’re in town.

“Anytime you’ve got active gang members, it’s all funded by drugs, guns and crime,” Sepagan said.

That means Pacific Grove residents need to be more vigilant in protecting themselves, particularly from mail theft, which can lead to identity theft. Gangs have discovered how lucrative it can be to swipe people’s personal information from their unlocked mailboxes and then sell it to criminals who use it to steal victims’ identities and money.

“There are a lot of unsecured mailboxes,” Sepagan said.

“They just open the door and grab the mail.” But that’s easily prevented, he pointed out, by getting a post office box or purchasing a locking mailbox.

While police don’t learn of some gang members’ arrival until the department receives a tip or something goes wrong, officers usually know when a gang member on probation moves into town, since the county keeps track of where they live. In addition, some convicted gang members must register in person at the local police department whenever they relocate.

“When they’re on probation, we always keep an eye on them, and tips will come in,” Sepagan said. If police are suspicious, officers will arrange with the probation department for a sweep of past offenders and will pick up anyone found in violation.

It was in coordination with the probation department that officers arrested 23-year-old P.G. resident Jacinto Trinidad-Ruiz — a “validated gang member” — on Jan. 14 for possession of methamphetamine, drug paraphernalia and probation violation.