TULARE COUNTY, Calif. - Law enforcement agencies in the South Valley said their community is safer now that 11 gang members have been indicted by a Criminal Grand Jury. The gang members were arrested last year as part of “Operation Red Sol", the largest gang operation in the Tulare County’s history. Eighty-one gang members were arrested as part of that sweep. On Friday, the defendants were arraigned at the Tulare County Courthouse in Visalia.
District Attorney Tim Ward said it’s been a long time coming to get justice for the victims and the victims’ families. He said with the grand jury’s work, this will speed up the court process.
It was near Houston Avenue and Highway 63 in north Visalia where police said a man was murdered in September 2015. The homicide, along with other violent crimes in the area, was tied to the Norteno gang, and just a month later, law enforcement announced with “Operation Red Sol” that they had taken off the streets 81 gang members.
Porterville Police Chief Eric Kroutil said, "Since Operation Red Sol, we have noticed a reduction in not just gang crime, but in violent gang crime. So, I truly believe our community is safer at this point because of what happened with Red Sol."
But Ward announced in a press conference on Friday that last year’s “Operation Red Sol” didn’t just end there. Ward said a criminal grand jury began deliberations last month, and then on Thursday, "That grand jury indicted 11 of the original defendants that were charged."
Ward stated that the indictment covers 65 felony charges, including the murder on Houston, conspiracy to commit murder, drug crimes, grand theft, and arson. Even more, Ward said the indictment will speed up the court process.
"The indictment will undoubtedly save the resources and time, not only of our office, but court resources, and very importantly the resources of our law enforcement agencies," said Ward.
Visalia Police Chief Jason Salazar echoed the same comments as Kroutil, saying “Operation Red Sol” has put a huge dent in the Norteno gang’s operations, which essentially brings crime down in the community.
Salazar said, "It’s a network of individuals that conspired together to commit crimes whether they involved narcotics, movement of firearms, and then really planning out different types of violent crimes to further the benefit of the criminal street gangs."
Out of the 81 arrested last year, half have already been convicted and sentenced. The District Attorney's Office said 150 years of State Prison has been handed down as part of the convictions.