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Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces New Multi-Agency Task Force Targeting Drug Gangs in the Central Valley

Thursday, April 7, 2011
Contact: (415) 703-5837

TULARE – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced the creation of a multi-agency gang task force in the Central Valley. The task force includes representatives from the California Department of Justice, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the Tulare Sheriff’s Department and the Visalia, Porterville and Tulare police departments. It will focus on investigating and arresting criminal gang members.

“With the creation of this task force, the Department of Justice is better positioned to assist and support Central Valley law enforcement as they strive to combat criminal gangs that are gaining footholds in local jurisdictions. These criminals operate without respect to city and county boundaries and it’s incumbent upon us to combine our efforts to defeat them,” Attorney General Harris said. “In light of the state’s budget crisis, greater collaboration between state and local law enforcement agencies also makes sound fiscal sense.”

The creation of the task force is part of the Attorney General’s broader effort to use the weight of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to convene and support local law enforcement in combating transnational gangs throughout the state. Attorney General Harris made the announcement during the first in a series of region-by-region zone meetings attended by members of the law enforcement community from Merced, Mariposa, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern counties.

As part of the Central Valley zone meeting, DOJ experts provided training on criminal gangs, as well as new technology using familial DNA to solve crimes. The presentation also included a discussion of a special DOJ Armed and Prohibited Persons program (APPS) that collaborates with local law enforcement to seize handguns and assault weapons from those people banned by law from possessing them. Since the statewide APPS sweeps began last month, agents have confiscated 735 guns from individuals deemed mentally unstable and dangerous.

Attorney General Harris presented awards to 11 individuals in recognition of their deep commitment to serving and protecting their communities. The awardees included sworn officers who displayed uncommon bravery and ingenuity, as well as committed citizen-volunteers.

Tulare County Sheriff Bill Wittman hosted today’s meeting.

“We are honored to host the inaugural zone meeting here in Tulare County,” said Sheriff Wittman. “We greatly appreciate the Attorney General’s attention to the needs of local law enforcement and look forward to a strong partnership with the Department of Justice.”

The Tulare County Multi-Agency Gang Task Force will be staffed by agents from the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement and its Bureau of Firearms, as well as officials with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the Visalia Police Department, the Porterville Police Department, the Tulare Police Department and the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department.

The new task force is a continuation of the Attorney General’s statewide effort to fight transnational gangs, from street level crimes to major international conspiracies. Last month, Attorney General Harris visited the California-Mexico border to announce the addition of four DOJ special agents to a multi-agency gang task force in Imperial County. (http://oag.ca.gov/news/press_release?id=2063)

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