Police: Violence to go Down After Taliban Gang Raid

Prevention efforts must continue

Local gang experts are hopeful that crime in East Palo Alto and Menlo Park will decrease after last week's large-scale raid of the violent Taliban gang, although police say their anti-gang efforts must continue.

The raids, which resulted in 42 arrests in East Palo Alto and other towns across the Bay Area, were a huge boon to the community, East Palo Alto police spokesman Carl Estelle said.

Officers, however, are continuing to track members of the Taliban and other gangs "who deserve the same type of attention."

"Now that we've taken a group of this size off the streets, there are more doors opened for other groups," Estelle said.

Estelle said his department will continue its community policing approach and using a crime analyst to detect patterns and make sure the department's efforts are targeted, rather than "just flooding the streets" with officers.

While a community meeting Monday night drew mixed responses from residents, Estelle said the raid has sparked some good conversation. After the feedback the public meeting, Estelle said police are examining more ways they can interact with youth.

The Taliban gang has been around for about six years, although they became particularly violent in 2005, according to Josh Stauffer, the gang unit prosecutor with the San Mateo County District Attorney's office. The group selected its name for shock value and has no ties to the fundamental Islamic group.

"It's not a very large gang, but it's an extremely violent gang," Stauffer said. Members distinguish themselves by wearing green camouflage, he said, and many sport tattoos of the gang's strange signature symbol-anthropomorphic M&M candy characters, often flashing gang signs or brandishing weapons. The M&M, Stauffer said, stands for "Midtown Menlo," the gang's central turf.

In addition to being violent, the Taliban was responsible for a large portion of the area's drug trade, Stauffer said. He agreed that the area's gang fight is ongoing, although working with federal law enforcement could bring big changes.

"Something this big has never really happened in East Palo Alto," he said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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