They've supplied addicts with drugs and lured countless youngsters into lives of crime.
As the community was tragically reminded again with the death of 3-year-old Ethan Esparza two weeks ago, they've killed. Over and over again.
Gangs in Pomona have caused untold damage and sorrow over the decades, earning the city a reputation it has worked hard to shake and giving police a continual challenge.
Progress can be found in the city's crime levels, which have remained on an encouraging decline during the past decade. But police, who now use a wide range of approaches to help combat gangs, say they won't be satisfied so long as any amount of violence persists.
"Over the years we have made a great deal of progress," police Chief Joe Romero said. "But as long as we have problems like little Ethan getting killed, it doesn't matter how much progress we've made."
Pomona counts 21 documented gangs within its borders, the oldest of which dates back as far at the 1940s.
Nearly 1,320 known active Pomona gang members reside in the city, and another 200 Pomona residents are known
members of gangs outside the city, said Sgt. Patrick O'Malley, who supervises the Police Department's gang unit.
Statistics suggest they've been up to less crime than at any other period in the past 20 years. Violent crimes, which include murder, rape, robbery and attempted assault, have remained around 1,200 a year for the past three years - about half the average number reported in the early 1990s.
Still, the drop in reported crime doesn't seem to correspond with a dip in the actual number of gang members, O'Malley said.
"As far as we know, gang membership hasn't dropped off," he said.
When it comes to fighting gang activity, the department's efforts essentially fall into two categories: enforcement (catching criminal gang members) and prevention (steering people away from gangs in the first place).
On the enforcement side, the department uses a number of tools, starting with the two-man gang unit that focuses full time on the city's gangs, keeps tabs on gang activity and gathers information from gang members and associates.
The unit's two detectives are by no means the only ones responsible for handling the city's gang activity, Romero said. Rather, they're like the hub of a wheel, sharing their expertise and information through "spokes" with prosecutors, schools and other police, parole and probation officers, he said.
Their communication with other agencies is a vital part of enforcement, Romero said.
The department talks frequently with Rialto police, for example; a number of Pomona's black gang members have migrated east to that city, but still return on the weekends, Romero said.
"Gang activity isn't limited to a geographic area," he said. "We do a lot of networking and collaboration with other agencies."
More visible in the fight against gangs are the sweeps and stings carried out periodically by Pomona police and other law enforcement agencies.
In a sweep in April, after more than a year's worth of wiretapping, surveillance and investigation, authorities arrested 57 gang members and confiscated hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of drugs.
"Operation Shark Bait," as Romero called it, targeted the 12th Street Sharkies gang, one of the city's oldest and largest.
Smaller undercover stings that catch criminals in the act of stealing or drug dealing not only get gang members into jail but spark word-of-mouth fear into other gang members as well.
Police have also stepped up efforts in the past year to crack down on landlords who allow gang activities to go on at their apartment complexes, Romero said.
In regular "focus meetings" at City Hall, police and others compare notes about problem apartment complexes, he said. The aim is to get landlords to put a stop to tenants' bad behavior before it escalates.
When landlords allow people to party all night or get away with drinking and urinating in public, it's much more likely that an apartment complex will end up with problems such as fistfights or guns being fired into the air, Romero said.
Police go after problem tenants, too. If a tenant who is receiving housing funding from the government is dealing drugs or allowing gang behavior to occur, police can help yank their government assistance, he said.
"By these people allowing this activity, they put their own interests at risk," Romero said.
Police and city officials also have targeted one gang in particular through injunctions. In March, authorities served restraining orders to 50 members of the Olive Street gang, forbidding them from associating with each other and engaging in many gang-related activities.
Crime is down in the gang's territory, which includes the long-troubled Angela-Chanslor neighborhood, though Romero said it's too early to tell how much of that has to do with the injunctions.
While enforcement is key to rooting out existing gang problems, it's just as important to find ways to keep young people away from gangs in the first place, Romero said.
That's why the department has a number of prevention tools and programs in place.
Chief among them is the Youth Services Bureau, a four-person team that focuses on the city's at-risk youth. Together, they work with the school district to identify children who are habitually truant and go after parents who allow their children to skip school.
At times, they've found parents at home watching television while their truant children hang out in another room, Romero said.
"That kind of mentality from a parent contributes to the problem," he said.
The bureau also focuses on graffiti, curfew violations and other juvenile crimes that aren't necessarily gang-related, but could ultimately put a young person on the path to joining a gang.
But it's not just kids who are in trouble who get attention from the department.
Police operate GREAT - the Gang Resistance Education and Training program - in the city's middle schools to educate students about the destructiveness of gangs. The nine-week course focuses on peer pressure and attempts to deglamorize some of the behaviors glorified in movies and other media.
"You need to reach kids younger and younger," Romero said, noting that kids are bombarded with music, movies and video games that "promote gang culture, that promote bullying, that promote going into schools and shooting students, that promote stealing cars."
Police also have reached out to young people by staging several fun events around the city. Partnered with the Community Engagement Group, they've held dances and swim parties where children from across the city can get to know each other.
In August, the department sponsored a camp out at the Civic Center, where middle school students competed in games, talked with police around a camp fire and spent the night outside in sleeping bags.
Events such as those help to combat the mentality that gets so many young people involved in gangs.
Too many of them "have no comprehension or appreciation of the future," Romero said. "One of the messages (of the camp out) was: There is a future. There are opportunities. There are things for them to discover in the future."
Gangs of Pomona
Pomona counts 21 gangs within its borders, consisting of more than 1,300 documented members. Among the city's larger gangs:
357 Sintown Crips
456 Island Bloods
Ghost Town Crips
OAG "Original Asian Gangsters"
Pomona 12th Street "Sharkies"
Sur Olive (Olive Street)
Westside Mafia Crips
BS Ranch Perspective:
We at the BS Ranch Believe that it isn't just at Pomona, or Ontario that there is a high Gang Population! Why there is a problem any where that they are pushed to. for example, Baldwin Park has a growing Drive By-Shooting Problem that keeps growing and growing, in fact they have two maybe three a night depending on the night. Sunday it is less then others, maybe for the Religious day that it is, and there are some Religious Gangsters out there that recognize that their Grandmothers are good people, but the Gangs that were are talking about have been feuding for a while, so Baldwin park puts together a plan and goes in and makes a few arrests, but most of all they pushed their problems into their neighboring city, which happens to be Pomona. Pomona was their home town and they are more at home there then they were to start with.
In Pomona they are shooting and not getting along because now the drug trade is really bad and wow, they have Multi Gangsters, and it is rough there are many that are getting killed and Pomona PD or the LA Sheriff's Department goes hard and the Gangs thorough the use of Wire Tap's and Ground Wires, and wires on principals, they obtain several houses for Real Estate and they make some rips, they do some pain to this gang, and they have gone right up the chain of command to the Sgt. at Arms.
Well the war is on and it is going to be bloody. The Police are ready. The Police are having a hard time of it with the gangs shooting at them and keeping them down, and out. the war is terrible. They get many locked up and many weapons confiscated, for destruction. Suddenly the Swat team is in and they clean the street and take it back and push the Gangster's into Ontario, and so on. Or the Gangster finally just says I am going go to the quiet of the country and gets as far as Rialto and says wow, the country is neat, There is a Dairy, in Chino Hills, and well they can visit there is Cat Fishing in Guastie Park, along with Trout fishing, but the Cat Fishing is what they want more of, on a lazy Saturday afternoon. Rialto is like the country, even though it is more like the city to many of the White folks.
Those Gangs are going to be hard to get rid of, every time you turn on the light they scurry into the cracks, and they don't come out until the night time is upon us again. Once that happens then they are out in full force and taking what they want!! It is to bad too, since what they are doing is ruining the nicest area's of Rialto, Fontana, Wrightwood, US 395, and most of all the City of Rialto, Specifically the area of the Glenwood's, Winchester apartments,
BS Ranch .
- In fight against gangs, Ontario has outpaced Pomona
- Even shopping malls have had to come up with anti-gang strategies
- Neighbors sad, but not shocked after Ethan's death
- Experts don't think Ethan's death will alter Pomona
- Too much Ethan? No, too much violence
- Stopping violence in our communities
- Meeting organizers pleased, but aim for more participation
- Planning a safer Pomona
- Time of the essence to catch Ethan's killer
- Overwhelming sorrow
- Tears and tributes
- Why do gangs kill the innocent?
- Resolve to stop violence is building, says pastor
- Pomona Police continue to look for gunman in killing of 3-year-old
- Church groups asking if more can be done
- Pastor in trenches to battle for Pomona
- Police seek tips in boy's shooting
- More than 70 gather at vigil for slain child
- Neighbors uneasy after shooting
- Police search for clues
- Police still looking for clues
- Vigil planned for Esparza
- Catching gunman is first task
- Police still seeking leads to possible suspects in shooting
- Pomona mayor pleads for witnesses to come forward
- Refusing to surrender to evil
- Tragedy sets in
- Pomona boy, 3, killed in drive-by shooting