RIALTO – Fifty police officers from seven different agencies conducted a series of raids on Friday, netting seven arrests of suspected taggers who caused thousands of dollars in damage to homes and businesses throughout the city.
Police arrested two men and five teen-agers, all suspected of being part of a tagging crew that includes two attempted murders and various drug sales in a growing crime spree that includes at least one assault. One adult and two of the teens are on probation for previous convictions for vandalism in the community.
Gilbert Cortez, 21, and Ramon Munoz, 20, both of Rialto, were arrested. Cortez is suspected of firing gunshots at the home of a rival tagger in August. The juvenile offenders were not identified.
One shot was fired during the raids, but it came from a San Bernardino County Probation Department officer who fired at a pit bull that tried to attack her on the 300 block of West Shamrock St. The shot did not wound the dog, nor did it cause any damage.
Rialto police officer James Hintz said there has been a three-month investigation into widespread tagging, the term used for vandalizing property in variety of ways.
“Since January,” he said, “they’re responsible for about $70,000 in damage to the city of Rialto.”
Fifty officers from Rialto, Ontario, Pomona, San Bernardino, Fontana, Union Pacific Railroad and the county probation department served search warrants on nine residences early Friday morning.
During the raids, officers seized spray paint cans, markers, brass knuckles, ammunition magazines, methamphetamine and a mini 14 assault rifle.
In late September, another member of the crew is suspected of attacking a 17-year-old rival tagging crew member with a baseball bat and a knife in the 400 block of Holiday St. Police have not been able to find out the suspect’s identity to make an arrest.
Friday’s raids were led by Rialto’s Street Crime Attack Team, which focuses on street-level narcotics activity, graffiti, gangs and other crimes. The city is trying to recoup about $57,000 in restitution from convicted taggers. Under a new municipal code targeting vandalism, the city will be able to go after more restitution.
Last week’s raids are a continuing strike against similar criminal forces in the city.
In August, combined agencies raided a multitude of sites and made 89 arrests for various felony and misdemeanor violations.
A lawsuit against a local criminal street gang was filed by San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos. The street gang, in existence since 2005, is known as “Hustla Squad Clicc.” It’s a combination of two rival gangs, the well-known Blood and Crip gangs, that resided in two neighboring Rialto apartment complexes located on North Beechwood Ave. and North Glenwood Ave.