But as Garcia and Faust frisked the shaved-headed youths, Preece ticked
off their not-so-innocent criminal histories.
"This guy was sent to juvenile hall for theft and possession of cocaine,"
Preece said of one, then moved on to his neighbor. "This one was in for
Four of the youths were taken to the department's nearby substation for
violation of probation. Under state law, individuals who are linked to a
gang and on probation are not allowed to associate with other gang
members for the duration of their probation.
Simply being together was enough for the gang unit to haul the teens to
the station and write them up.
The officers said holding South Siders to gang terms has been a key
weapon in suppressing the group's activities. But Preece said it takes a
constant and watchful eye -- it takes 15 to 20 gang term violations to
send a youth back to juvenile hall. Still, he said, it is this type of
aggressive enforcement that keeps the gang from exploding into the type
of violence experienced last summer.
Although the South Siders seemed unmoved by their detention and citation,
the officers said the tactic let the gang know they are being watched.
"If we didn't do this, they would run amok," Preece said.
And it may even deter kids from joining.
"We keep their membership down," he said. "Kids tell us they don't want
to hang out with South Side because they don't want to be harassed by the
But back at the substation, while the officers were filling out the
paperwork, the youths seemed determined not to let their gang terms keep
"I know I'll get in trouble, but I'm not going to stop doing it," said
one 16-year-old South Sider, "Orlando," who is on probation for theft.
"We weren't doing anything bad. We were just hanging out."
Orlando -- whose name, along with other gang members' names, has been
changed in this story because he is a juvenile -- said he is proud to be
a South Sider because "we're the only gang around." But he also
acknowledged, as did all the young men, that their lifestyle was
upsetting for their parents.
"My parents get sad and frustrated with me," confessed Orlando, who said
he was born in Mexico City.