Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

Tagging crew that rampaged after Lakers' 2009 NBA title win targeted in crackdown

June 16, 2010 |  1:08 pm
Nearly a dozen Southern California law enforcement agencies arrested members of a tagging crew Wednesday believed responsible for hundreds of thousands of dollars in property damage over the last year, including during the Lakers' 2009 victory celebration.

The arrests were timed to help prevent a repeat of the rampant vandalism that marred postgame celebrations last year following the Lakers' title win. The Lakers face off Thursday night against the Boston Celtics at Staples Center for the 2010 NBA championship.

On Wednesday, authorities targeted members of the OCP tagging crew, also known as Out Causing Panic, said Lt. Erik Ruble of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's special problems unit, which investigates
graffiti on Metropolitan Transportation Authority property.

At least 31 people from the crew, which is estimated to have more than 200 members spread over four Southern California counties, were arrested after officers conducted probation searches and served search warrants.

"What don't they damage?" Ruble said following the pre-dawn operation. "These guys are tearing up everything. They are etching and tagging any private and public property they come in contact with from freeways, light poles and business windows to buses and trains. They truly are thugs and menaces."

OCP has been linked to more than 700 incidents of vandalism over the last year, causing damage estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars,

They first came to the attention of police last year during the nighttime unrest outside Staples Center, where crowds looted several stores, smashed car windows and vandalized police cars. They vandalized an MTA bus and a Blue Line train, which was captured on video news footage of the post-victory violence.

After further investigation, detectives learned the crew's handiwork was widespread across Los Angeles County, including El Monte, Pico Rivera and Whittier, Ruble said.

Law enforcement agencies that patrol those areas were involved in Wednesday's operation, as were Riverside police, the Riverside County Sheriff's Department, the California Highway Patrol, the L.A. County Probation Department and state parole officers.

In addition to vandalism, OCP members have been involved in assaults, robberies, vehicle thefts and drug sales, Ruble said.

-- Andrew Blankstein