LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — More than three-dozen alleged Los Angeles gang members wanted for crimes including murder have been arrested by a multi-agency task force, authorities announced Monday.

The task force included personnel from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Marshals Service.

Their 14-month investigation centered on the so-called Vermont Corridor — four square miles along Vermont Avenue, stretching from Hollywood Boulevard to 120th Street.

“Investigators believe much of the bloodshed results from acts of violence in and around the Vermont Corridor as a result of an ongoing gang war between members of three particular criminal street gangs,” LA County Sheriff Jim McDonnell said Monday. “Two of the gangs formed an alliance and waged an active gang war against the third gang.”

Authorities said 38 people have been arrested, with criminal charges filed against 29 of them for offenses including murder, attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

The crimes investigated by the task force included the July 17, 2015, shooting of a man who had no gang affiliation and lives in an area claimed by gang members, along with the murders of five known or documented gang members
between October 2009 and August 2015, McDonnell said.

“These are all victims, but so is the community on this,” McDonnell said, noting that the task force’s success “should serve as a warning to those who choose to continue on their path of violence.”

The sheriff called the task force’s efforts a “severe blow” to the gangs.

Working families who live in the area have been “terrorized by gang warfare,” said Joseph Esposito, Assistant District Attorney of Special Operations for the District Attorney’s Office.

“These residents are innocent people who live in fear of getting caught in the crossfire of rival gangs or worry about loved ones falling victim to a stray bullet,” he said.

In one instance, a gang member shot and killed a rival and opened fire on a group of innocent bystanders mistakenly believed to be affiliated with the gang, with several people struck by gunfire and sustaining “life-altering injuries,” Esposito said.

As a result of the extensive 14-month investigation, authorities were able to prevent three additional killings and to stop the smuggling of hundreds of powerful painkillers that were headed through Los Angeles International Airport to Ohio, Esposito said.

“This type of collaboration with multiple agencies allows us to successfully combat a more sophisticated criminal gang culture that has expanded its territory beyond the streets and into the realm of social media,” the assistant district attorney said. “Gang members no longer just hide in the dark alleys. They take to social media to carry out their threats, coordinate attacks and further paralyze the public with fear.”

The sheriff said he didn’t know if he could say if the task force has accomplished enough yet.

“Certainly it’s a work in progress as everything we do is, but a lot has been done and the people listed (on) this board (of arrests made) are involved in some horrific crimes so I can safely say that the streets are much safer than they were prior to this operation kicking off and culminating in these arrests here,” McDonnell said.

(©2016 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)


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