State and local law enforcement officials announced Friday that a massive Riverside gang crackdown has netted 45 arrests and the seizure of 63 guns, including 13 assault weapons.
"Operation Eastbound and Down" has been underway for the past six months, according to the California Department of Justice.
It was prompted by an increase in crimes including assault, shootings and murders, which investigators blame on a gang turf war, Riverside Police Department Lt. Charles Payne said. The violence centered around the small area known as the Eastside neighborhood of Riverside, which has seen more than 40 instances of gang violence, ranging from murders and shootings to robberies and carjackings, since 2016.
The violence has been largely driven by the releases of several high-ranking gang members from custody in recent months, the lieutenant said.
"As a result, the members have been fighting to retake control of their respective cliques or factions within the gang," Payne said. "The power struggle between the leadership of these different factions caused a surge in violent crimes throughout the Eastside neighborhood of Riverside. The number of shootings, drive-by shootings, assaults and other violent crimes drastically increased in the past several months."
But the operation was not limited to Riverside, he said. Teams also carried out searches and made arrests in cities including Rialto, Moreno Valley, Garden Grove, Perris and San Jacinto.
They served 28 arrest warrants, 17 search warrants, 5 probation searches and one parole search during the operation Payne said. Investigators are still seeking some suspects in connection with the investigation.
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials aided the effort by searching the cells of incarcerated gang members, Payne added.
Riverside is a safer place because of the work of the teams, Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz said.
The challenge of locking up dangerous criminals never ends, he said.
"With that, we’re able to bring a sense of justice and a sense of peace to neighborhoods in our city that are beset by gang violence," Diaz said.
"Most importantly to me, we give an opportunity for young people to grow up in a more normal environment, to achieve their full potential and to be children," he said.
Attorney General Xavier Becerra thanked and commended the involved law enforcement officers for their work.
"There's no community that should be plagued by violence and street crime," Becerra said. He added that Operation Eastbound and Down is just one of many partnerships between state and local officials to combat street violence.