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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.”

Detectives Arrest Man Suspected of Raping Girl, 12, He Met Online

Anaheim Police detectives arrested a man accused of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl he met on the social networking site MySpace, officials said today.

Suspect Matthew Casteneda

Matthew Martinez Casteneda, 33, was arrested after arranging a meeting with the girl at a Costa Mesa mall. Later, the man is accused of taking the girl to a motel at Harbor Boulevard and Katella Avenue and raping her, police say.

“Sex crimes Sgt. Tracy Hittesdorf, Det. Brian Hayes and the Crime Task Force jumped on this case. We officially received the report on Friday,” said Sgt. Rick Martinez. “By midnight, they identified and located the suspect who was hidding in a warehouse in Costa Mesa. Great work!”

To read an Orange County Register story about the case, click here.

Woodworking Burglars Caught in The Act, Police Say

Like a scene out of Hollywood thriller, the undercover detectives watched from an unmarked car in the middle of the night as burglars walked out of a woodworking business through a smashed glass door.

The recovered goods

The officers continued to watch – undetected – as the suspects loaded saws, drills and dozens of other expensive power tools into a truck. 

As the suspects prepared to make their getaway about 2:30 a.m. Thursday, the officers moved in and arrested two men believed to be behind a two-month crime spree that hit at least 10 woodworking businesses in Anaheim and beyond.

“The arrests were no accident,” said Anaheim Deputy Police Chief Craig Hunter. “Our Crime Analysis Unit recently identified that we had an issue in the area – and they worked quickly with detectives to develop a strategy to solve it.”

Hunter said detectives deployed undercover patrol officers to key locations with a highly probability of being burglarized, including the 2700 block of Miraloma – the site of the arrests.

The result: “We made arrests before other businesses were hit. These arrests illustrate the importance of our strategic approach to solving crime and crime prevention,” Hunter said.

Arrested on suspicion of burglary were Carlos Tapia Cruz, 26, of Garden Grove and Leonardo Catalan, 22, residence unknown.

A substantial amount of stolen tools have been recovered, and police are working with victims to identify and return them to their rightful owners.

Citizen’s Tip Led to Arrest of 7-Eleven Bandits

A citizen who recognized a security camera image broadcast on local television stations was credited for playing a key role in the arrests of three suspected convenience store robbers.CAMERA6

The robbers hit as many as 17 stores, including 7-Elevens in Anaheim, San Clemente, Lynwood and elsewhere.

The robbery spree is believed to have started June 20, and ended last week with the arrests.

Police chief John Welter said good police work, media attention and the citizen’s tip led to the arrests.

“This case is an outstanding illustration of how the public can help police solve crime,” he said.

Wearing dark hooded sweatshirts, the suspects were captured on surveillance video in an Anaheim store.

The police department shared the video with media, which led to the tip from a viewer.

Arrested were two 17-year-olds – one from Chula Vista, the other from Anaheim, and Raymond Moreno, 18, of Anaheim.

Read the entire press release here.