Image: Police raid home
Damian Dovarganes  /  AP
An elderly man sits outside a Long Beach, Calif., home as federal agents and local police conduct a raid early Tuesday. Police said the man is not a suspect.
updated 7/31/2007 6:07:03 PM ET 2007-07-31T22:07:03

Federal agents and police fanned out across the city early Tuesday in a huge sweep of gang members aimed at taking down violent offenders.

More than 400 officers took part in the campaign that started at around 4 a.m., said Mike Campbell, a spokesman for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

He said the daylong operation was one of the largest he had seen.

The effort was part of a wider crackdown, spearheaded by the U.S. Justice Department in cities nationwide and aimed at gang members suspected of dealing drugs and committing violent crimes.

Tuesday’s operation followed a six-month investigation and focused on a neighborhood near Long Beach known locally as “Ghost Town.”

Authorities were looking for at least 25 leaders of a street gang called the East Side Pain, said police Lt. Ruben Delatorre.

“It’s an effort to retake a violent neighborhood, and it’s long overdue,” he said.

Authorities blocked off an entire street in the neighborhood, as agents charged through front doors setting off “flash-bang” grenades to stun suspects inside.

Several residents were detained and a large number of guns and drugs were seized, Delatorre said, although he did not immediately have any figures.

Officials didn’t immediately report any injuries.

'You just live with it'
A neighborhood resident for 34 years, Rigoberto Martinez, said three of his grandchildren, ages 18 to 20, were injured in a drive-by shooting in January.

“You get accustomed to the violence,” said Martinez, 71. “You just live with it.”

According to FBI statistics, there are some 30,000 street gangs in the U.S. with about 800,000 members. In Los Angeles and Chicago, more than half of the combined 1,000 or so homicides reported in 2004 were blamed on gangs.

Los Angeles saw a 15 percent increase in gang-related crimes in 2006 at the same time general crime declined citywide.

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