A multi-agency gang sweep that Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer called “the largest and most impactful gang operation in this city’s history” resulted in the arrests of more than two dozen people, including leaders of one of Fresno’s most notorious gangs.
“These men had people in the streets hunting for rivals to shoot every hour of every day,” Dyer said. “This is going to be a much safer place.”
In all, 28 people – most identified as leaders of the Dog Pound Gang – were arrested Thursday in the sweep, Dyer said at a news conference. More than 400 law enforcement officers from various local, state and federal agencies participated.
“Their leadership has been dismantled, and the gang was severely crippled,” Dyer said.
About $50,000 in cash and 17 vehicles – including a Bentley, a Range Rover, a party bus and a boat – were also seized in the operation. The Internal Revenue Service is assisting with the financial aspects of the investigation.
A variety of charges were filed in federal court Thursday.
Ten of the suspects will face conspiracy to commit murder charges.
With the help of the California Highway Patrol and the California Department of Justice, Fresno police monitored the cellphones and social media accounts of the identified Dog Pound leaders, Dyer said. These men ordered shootings and violent acts throughout the city, he said.
Because of this monitoring, Dyer said, police were able to stop five potential shootings before they could be carried out.
Only one gun and no drugs were recovered in the sweep, which Dyer said was expected. These experienced gangsters knew not to keep drugs and guns in their homes – instead opting to pay subordinates to carry out shootings on their behalf. Some Dog Pound recruits are as young as 13, Dyer added.
Some of the arrests center around prostitution operations that originated in Fresno and ballooned out into five states and Washington, D.C. Dyer said that at least eight of the gang leaders were recruiting young women in Fresno – often runaways – through social media and other means before sending them throughout the country.
James York, 39, was identified by Dyer as the top target of the sweep. He is believed to be the leader of the gang and was involved in both the shooting plots and the prostitution. He was also charged with sex trafficking a minor, a 17-year-old girl who has since been put into foster care.
York and the other leaders arrested Thursday are believed to have managed the gang for more than a decade.
“It’s a beautiful sight,” Dyer said. “We have pictures of these guys in our operations area, and to put an X over their faces is something I wish everyone could have seen.”
The three men charged as pimps are believed to have brought in at least $30,000 per week from the eight or nine prostitutes each supervised.
Dyer said none of the prostitutes will be charged, as they’re considered victims. Some were lured with promises of a better life, but all were eventually coerced by the violent gang leaders. Breaking the Chains, a local support group for sex trafficking victims, and other similar groups were called in to help these women.
Two employees at the Ambassador Inn & Suites at 1804 W. Olive Ave. and one employee from Summerfield Inn at 6309 N. Blackstone Ave. were arrested for helping the pimps by providing regular rooms for prostitution.
Fresno County Assistant District Attorney Steve Wright said his office could also file charges in Fresno County Superior Court.
“Between 100,000 and 300,000 women and children are trafficked for sex in the U.S. each year,” Wright said. “It’s growing more profitable than selling drugs. The trafficking of human beings will not be tolerated in Fresno County.”
Other charges against the gang leaders included fraud, identity theft and racketeering.
Dyer said the Dog Pound Gang, which has about 200 members, was responsible for more shootings and violent activity than any other gang in Fresno. Its leaders were difficult to charge because they often bribed or intimidated witnesses and victims into not cooperating with police.
Technology played a critical role in bringing them in, as the state agencies’ electronic monitoring also shed light on their recruiting and operating practices. In all, the operation lasted 15 months.
Although police arrested 28 suspects Thursday and more arrests are on the way, Dyer said he was focused on another number.
“Behind every one of those individuals arrested, there are countless victims,” he said. “Hundreds and hundreds who were trafficked, beaten, had money taken from them, were hit by drive-by shootings or even murdered.”
Dyer said there are other Fresno gangs with similar command structures and tendencies who should watch out.
“They will be next,” he said. “This is a wave of the future – a way of eradicating gangs in this city.”