ST. GEORGE – A St. George woman helped detectives track down the identity of a new gang in Washington County after catching one of the gang members tagging property.
Det. Aaron Bergquist with the Washington County Area Task Force said the citizen followed the juvenile gang member until he got into his car. She then wrote down his license plate and called the police.
Bergquist said the new gang, the Saint Town Norteno’s, have inundated the city with graffiti over the last several months.
Bergquist said the local gang members have not aligned themselves with the “Nuestra Familia” – a national prison gang with foot soldiers from Norteno gangs.
“They simply took on the name of the gang and began to commit crimes on its behalf,” he said. “The majority of the offenses are graffiti. If this group had been allowed to continue to represent Norteno, they would most certainly be violently targeted by local Sureno Gangs and/or Norteno gangs.”
The St. George area received the biggest rash of the problem, he said.
“As is common with graffiti investigations, they are inherently difficult to investigate due to the fact there is little to no evidence, and often no witnesses,” he said.
Bergquist said the task force worked closely with school resource officer to educate teachers on what was happening on the street.
“We asked them to pay attention to their student’s binders and work looking for the same tagging,” he said. “The gang unit contacted every documented Norteno gang member in the area looking for leads. We also had several informants looking for information about some of the new Norteno’s in town. During our investigation, we received a huge break when a citizen observed a juvenile tagging a wall as she passed by. The graffiti she observed was then connected to multiple graffiti incidents. With this new information, combined with what we already had, we were able to identify several suspects.”
On March 17, detectives, school resource officers and representatives of juvenile probation began to contact the suspects. Three male juveniles were then taken to juvenile detention, and eight others, including a female juvenile, are still facing charges.
The citizen who helped break the case, was awarded with the rare and prestigious Washington County Task Force Gang Unit Coin for her efforts in assisting with the investigation.
The citizen, who St. George News has chosen not to name, said last week her friend had her purse and keys stolen from her car that was left unlocked in her garage, and her neighbor left his garage door open all night with a gun case inside. The citizen said she wanted to remind everyone that those actions are aiding criminals, and can endanger your neighbors by attracting criminals to areas that are easy to target. She asked that everyone be on the alert for anything unusual and call the police.
Email [email protected]
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2011, all rights reserved.