General Crime

Santa Cruz police and federal officers have arrested seven alleged gang members

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Santa Cruz police, county and federal officers have arrested seven males, including four confirmed Sureno gang members, during an operation targeting street-level drug sales, a police spokesman said. The seven male suspects, including six adults and one 17-year-old juvenile, were instrumental in street-level drug activity in the Beach Flats neighborhood near Santa Cruz Beach, Deputy Police Chief Steve Clark said.

The arrests resulted from a three-month enforcement effort by the Santa Cruz Anti-Crime Team, made up of city police officers, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Clark said. The task force targeted streets in the Beach Flats area to disrupt the activities of gang members who control the neighborhood with drug sales and intimidation, Clark said. The group also wanted to brunt the gang’s main source of cash, Clark said.

The officers used a variety of enforcement methods such as undercover drug purchases, surveillance and obtaining tips from informants, Clark said. The suspects arrested who are known to be Sureno members were Juan Armando Silva, 26, Manuel Huerta Silva, 27, and Andrew Villa, 18, all of Santa Cruz, and the juvenile who is not being identified, Clark said. Villa, Juan Armando Silva and the juvenile were arrested on suspicion of illegal drug sales and Manuel Huerta Silva on suspicion of drugs sales and drug possession, Clark said.

Gang enhancement allegations were later added to the cases against each of the four suspected Sureno members, Clark said. Those arrested who are not affiliated with the gang were Jeremy Ochoa, 32, of Aptos, and Santa Cruz residents Rene Perez Mendoza, 31, and Edward Lujan, 43. Ochoa and Mendoza were taken into custody on suspicion of drug sales and Lujan on suspicion of possession of drugs with the intent to distribute and on firearms possession. The suspects were arrested over the last two months of the three-month operation, Clark said. J

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