Operation Falling Sun, the biggest gang raid in county history, is still the talk of the town in Desert Hot Springs at the beginning of this week.
Local, state and federal officers arrested 120 people on Friday.
Stephen Bennett, like a lot of people in Desert Hot Springs, is happy 120 accused criminals are off the streets.
He also understands law enforcement needs to keep up the good work.
“They need to just clamp down on them again. This shouldn’t just be a one time deal. they should be on this all the time, this something they should continue with,” says Bennett.
But it’s not that easy.
Our prisons and jails are overcrowded. Many criminals will get released early and statistics show 70% of them will get re-arrested.
And these tough times may force the county to cut back on public safety.
The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department may get its budget cut by $74 million.
The District Attorney’s office faces $12 million in cuts.
“This could easily be reversed,” says District Attorney Rod Pacheco. “We lose the gang task force, we lose prosecutors, we lose sheriff deputies, probation officers. We could easily go the wrong way. Gangs could double like that.”
Desert Hot Springs resident Greg Veach understands.
“I think it’s kinda tough on the cops on the street not knowing how … secure their job is,” says Veach.
The County wants to add a new jail to help ease overcrowding.
The site of the new jail is undetermined at this point but city officials here in desert hot springs have offered up land for the new proposed jail.
Officials hope to build the jail in the next five years. But extra jail space and more officers is only part of the solution.
Pacheco says prevention is key.
“We need to hit those kids that are 5, 6, 7 and 8 that haven’t yet been exposed to gangs in a significant way. That aren’t going the wrong way. We need to get them on the right track,” says Pacheco.
Law enforcement plans more sweeps like Operation Falling Sun, no matter what the budget and jail situation is.
“We have tremendous resources that we use to protect the community, like Friday and we’re gonna do everything we can to continue that,” says Pacheco.
Law Enforcement officers involved: 682 (41 strike teams), 35 agencies Known & suspected gang members targeted: 450 Arrest warrants executed: 38 Arrests made: 120 Search warrants executed: 48 Probation searches: 185 Parole searches: 100 Illegal immigrants targeted by ICE: 70 HUD housing search warrants executed: 6 Firearms recovered: 50 Drugs seized: 400 grams of methamphetamine; 3,000 grams of marijuana; 50+ of marijuana; 2 oz. of cocaine; 0.5 grams of heroin.