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Angels Sluggers Honor Kids for Posting Big Attendance Numbers

Anaheim Sgt. Juan Reveles with students from Walter Elementary

Growing up with a rough crowd in Arkansas, Torii Hunter says he could’ve strayed into a life of drugs like his father.

Instead, he kept busy playing sports – and avoiding the wrath of his mother, a school teacher.

On Monday, the Angels’ star centerfield said those decisions were key to his success.

“School is very important,” he said to 500 cheering children. “What you do will affect you later.”

Hunter, slugger Bobby Abreu, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas and police officials from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and Anaheim, Orange and Buena Park police departments honored the formerly “at risk” children, ages 9-13, for great attendance – and avoiding gangs. Each child received an Angels cap, admission to the game and an exclusive and inspiring chat with the sluggers.

The students cheered when the players jumped on the dugout

“We are blessed to have a community partner like the Angels,” said Anaheim Police Lt. Mark Cyprien. “Being in a position to honor these children – many of whom had one foot in a gang – reenforces that they are making the right decisions when choosing to go to school.”

Their ticket in?

They had to improve their attendance and grades – and stay out of trouble.

Torii Hunter and Bobby Abreu share stories from their childhood

David Santos, a sixth-grader at Walter Elementary, said the Gang Reduction and Intervention Partnership’s mentor program has helped him.

Katie Morel, his mentor and a Walter first-grade teacher, opened her classroom to him and his friends after school. She’s taken him to movies, pizza and on other outings – at her own expense.

“The gangs are always coming up to me asking me where I’m from,” he said. “This keeps us busy and gives us a place to hang out after school away from the gangs.”

When asked about getting an evening at Angels stadium as a reward, he said, “It’s awesome,” adding Hunter is his favorite player.

He might like him even more after Monday’s outing.

Hunter and Abreu invited the children to attend a second game – as their guests.

To read Orange County Register reporter Eric Carpenter’s coverage, click here.

Walter Elementary teacher Katie Morel mentored Omar Higareda, 8, Juan Cruz, 13, and David Santos, 12

Arrests Highlight APD’s Effort to Solve Violent Gang Crime

By Tony Dodero

Anaheim gang investigators struck a crippling blow to a fledgling street gang recently, arresting the leader and three other members and confiscating an assault rifle as they prepared for battle with a rival gang, officials said.

Juan Pena

The leader, Juan Pena, and three juvenile gang associates were picked up and a .38-revolver and a SKS assault rifle were seized during the months-long investigation, officials said. Three of the four suspects face a number of charges including conspiracy to commit murder, aggravated assault, gang member in possession of weapons and gang enhancements.

“They are looking at a lot of time (behind bars),” said Sgt. Mike Haggerty, the supervisor of Anaheim Police Department’s gang detail.

The arrests illustrate Anaheim PD’s strategic effort to crack down on criminal street gangs, especially new ones to ensure they don’t become entrenched in the community, he said.

“It goes without saying we are going out there to hammer these gangs,” Haggerty said. “Our job is to identify these gangs and then hit them with search warrants and get rid of them early. They are on the front burner.”

The arrests were sparked by a rise in tension between a relatively new gang and an existing street gang involved  in several incidents in Southwest Anaheim. The recent arrests will put a damper on the new gang’s future activities, Haggerty said.

The gang is suspected to be involved in shooting the tip off the nose of a rival at Maxwell Park in December. A nearby fire station was also hit during the assault. Another shooting and confrontation took place at a fast food restaurant on the corner of Ball Road and Dale Avenue and two members of the gang later confronted rivals at a Beach Boulevard motel. 

They are also suspected of breaking into the home of another rival and shooting at him while he was on a couch.

The gang’s activity seemed to increase after the release of Pena from prison in January. Pena was friends with one of the gang’s founders who was shot and killed near the corner of Euclid Street and Cerritos Avenue in July of 2008, Haggerty said. Members of the rival gang are suspected in that shooting.

Haggerty said the gang battle was unusually protracted.

“It was obviously something personal here,” Haggerty said. Also, he said the nature of the weapons confiscated show the gang was planning more violence.

“That SKS rifle could kill several people at one time,” he said of the assault weapon that was purchased on the street for $400. “That goes to show you the mentality of that gang.”

Anaheim PD Plays Key Role in First Countywide Curfew Sweep

Anaheim PD joined about two dozen law enforcement agencies Thursday night in the first ever Orange County curfew sweep aimed at cracking down on truancy and gang recruitment.LA Times photo

Organized by the Gang Reduction Intervention Partnership, the sweep began about 10 p.m. Thursday – with officers bringing violators to command posts in Anaheim, Aliso Viejo and Orange.

Anaheim investigator Ed Arevalo was featured in a wire service story that was picked up by a number of news agencies.

“It’s a little bit of scared straight, a little bit of tough love and then we give them the resources to follow up with social services,” Arevalo told a reporter.

To read the story, click here.

The Los Angeles Times followed Sgt. Mike Haggerty and Investigator Brian Browne. Its story can be found here.