South Side Story

February 03, 2000

Andrew Wainer

It was a quiet Friday night.

Deep green lawns, well-lighted streets and tidy homes added to the sense

of normalcy on Keelson Street in the Oak View community.

It seemed unlikely turf for Huntington Beach's largest and oldest street


Slowly cruising through the neighborhood in an unmarked Chevrolet, Gary


Faust and Mark Garcia, Huntington Beach Police Gang Unit detectives,

encountered little gang activity during their nighttime patrol of the

community that hardly covers more than half of a square mile. But they

know the placid appearance can be deceiving.

"We're in a lull," they said.

Faust stressed that violence among the city's most powerful Latino street

gang -- South Side Huntington Beach -- comes in waves.

"Most of their leaders are in jail," Faust said. "But we still stay on

top of them to try to keep them from growing."


The drop in violence in the Oak View community is recent -- about six

months old.

The two veteran officers said the quiet is the result of a major law

enforcement crackdown in July, after two gang-related killings occurred

in Oak View within 24 hours.

"That's where he was killed," Faust said, pointing from the undercover

patrol car to a home where one of South Side's members was killed by a

rival gang member from Santa Ana. "There was a shrine with flowers and

candles before, but I guess they forgot about him."

The two killings within 17 hours -- and four streets -- of one another

drew a swift and crippling reaction from local police departments.

A multi-agency operation using 80 officers arrested four suspects,

confiscated five firearms and put South Side's leadership in jail. Only

after that massive operation has the neighborhood calmed down, the pair


The department's two foot patrol teams that cover the Oak View area and

aggressive gang intervention have kept activity low since the killings,

Faust said.

"Old South Sider's used to go to other neighborhoods and shoot it up,"

foot patrol Officer Art Preece said after meeting up with Garcia and

Faust at the Slater substation Friday night.

Not so anymore, Preece said.

"We're all over these guys [the gang]," he said.

There have been no South Side homicides since the police summer

crackdown. But that doesn't mean the gang -- made up of 30 to 50 members

-- doesn't still exist. Faust said assault, theft and drug sales are the

three most common South Side crimes. He said officers are engaged in foot

pursuits in the Oak View community "on a daily basis."

And sometimes things get violent.

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