The creation of MAGEC immediately created greater cooperation and networking among the participating agencies. The men and women of MAGEC believe that the multi-agency and multi-level approach to combat gang crime is the most comprehensive and effective method in existence. The reduction of gang crime is evident throughout Fresno County.
On Jan. 3, 1994, the Fresno County Sheriff's Office formally established their first gang enforcement team, titled "Combined Resources Against Street Hoodlums" (CRASH) with the mission of eradicating criminal gang activity. It was supported by a four-pronged approach, consisting of prosecution, enforcement, education, and prevention.
One Sheriff's lieutenant commanded the team, with two sheriff's sergeants who supervised a six-person uniformed team and a six-person plain-clothes team of gang enforcement detectives.
This approach ultimately became a resourceful guide in accommodating the public's needs and law enforcement's ability to navigate through common and uncommon challenges.
CRASH sought and received a grant titled "Combined Rural Resources Undermining Street Hoodlums" (CRRUSH). The grant provided three additional deputy sheriffs, two Fresno County Probation Officers, a deputy district attorney juvenile prosecutor and investigator to the team. The juvenile prosecutor would aid in streamlining the vertical prosecution goal. One deputy was assigned to teach the gang resistance education and training curriculum in specific school districts with gang-affiliated students on probation. The unit collectively identified the community's needs and priorities and went to work.
A CRASH detective was assigned to the FBI's fugitive apprehension team and a narcotic dog was added to the team.
The dedicated team of CRASH completely overhauled their gang tracking system to meet all future legal challenges associated to such enforcement. The departments proactive advances were recognized, which ultimately earned the Fresno County Sheriff's Office the selection as an administrative node for "Cal Gang," a statewide database developed exclusively for gangs. Today this system is being developed into a nationwide gang database titled Gang Net.
Current statewide gang training was provided to enforcement members. A statewide networking base was also emphasized and established.
The Fresno County jail classification staff networked closely with CRASH. They had the immediate 7-day, 24-hour ability to identify and document gang members via their gang validation tracking inquiry. Their current and extensive historical knowledge of gang members and gang activity became a major investment in combating the criminal element. To date they have distinguished themselves as a primary resource on many gang investigations.
The sharing of information was an established priority for the sheriff's office. Therefore the CRASH team attended local and state gang meetings. This collaboration with allied agencies increased critical information flow. CRASH team members were called by allied agencies to share the CRASH concepts and standards and to conduct gang presentations. The development of CRASH and its organizational protocol became a supplementing model for new gang task forces.
As a complement to this networking priority, a local Gang Information Bulletin (GIB) was created and provided internally for the benefit of our field staff and all office members. The GIB ultimately became a gang information resource for neighboring law enforcement counties, the California Department of Corrections and federal enforcement agencies. At its peak, this bulletin was mailed nationwide to more than 300 peace officers and agencies. Through time, the GIB was discontinued as the "instant access" world of information was developed. Today group email lists are used to send information throughout the state.
In 1996, then-Sheriff Steve Magarian chaired a meeting, inviting then-District Attorney Ed Hunt, all Fresno county police chiefs, supervising law enforcement agents from the California Highway Patrol, Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, Federal Bureau of Investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service, State Parole, Fresno County Probation supervisors, the California Department of Corrections and the Immigration & Naturalization Service. Sheriff Magarian proposed this meeting with a recommendation and plan to establish one unique law enforcement body to expand our war against criminal gang activity. Endorsements were received and planning commenced for the task force.
Committees were developed to work out resources, communications, staffing and various related logistics. A chief deputy district attorney initially was selected as a neutral body to command MAGEC. A governing board, consisting of department heads, established policy and direction. It was determined that all CRASH personnel would be absorbed into MAGEC.
In November of 1997, the newly formed cooperative, MAGEC, was formally endorsed and honored by California State Governor Pete Wilson. On Dec. 1, 1997, MAGEC went into operation with 30 law enforcement agencies coming together -- the largest long-term consolidation in law enforcement history.
MAGEC was structured with a vertical prosecution team lead by a senior deputy district attorney, a metropolitan team commanded by a Fresno police lieutenant, and a rural team commanded by a Fresno sheriff's lieutenant. Each team would have a mix of participating agency personnel.
The Fresno County Sheriff's Office and the Fresno Police Department contributed the largest number of personnel. An office site for MAGEC personnel was chosen in metropolitan Fresno.
The creation of MAGEC immediately created greater cooperation and networking among the participating agencies. The Forensic Laboratory of the Fresno County Sheriff's Office agreed to receive, analyze, and maintain custody of all controlled substances seized and submitted by members of MAGEC. This afforded members of MAGEC the ability to receive an official analysis of their evidence within one working day. MAGEC personnel also received orientation training for the integrated ballistics identification system (IBIS). The database provides an evidentiary analysis of casings and bullets collected during investigations and comparison options associated to existing and unidentified evidence data.
The Fresno County Sheriff's Office manages all three county detention facilities. Prior policy of the Sheriff's Office was to charge agencies booking fees for each arrest booked into the jail. Because of the imposed fees many agencies in Fresno County adopted an arrest policy dictating the issuance of citations for misdemeanor suspects in the field, in lieu of physical detention, when appropriate. Seeing how this may impede the increased enforcement tactics instituted by MAGEC, the Sheriff's Office agreed to wave booking fees on all arrests by MAGEC team members.
MAGEC applied for and received a three-year federal grant titled "Enforcement, Prevention, Prosecution, Intervention, and Counseling" (EPPIC). Two deputy sheriffs and two juvenile probation officers were assigned to gang prosecution and enforcement. One deputy sheriff was in charge of gang resistance and education within designated schools. One deputy district attorney for prosecution and one deputy district attorney investigator complemented this enforcement body. The California School of Professional Psychology supported the EPPIC body by providing counseling and guidance for at-risk, gang-involved youth. A Fresno County Sheriff's community services officer was in charge of a mentoring program established in providing mentors, for support services. The CSO was also in charge of an anti-graffiti program for designated cities. The Grant has since expired due to the down-turn in the economy; however, the MAGEC Unit will continue to focus on prevention whenever possible, understanding that a multi-level approach is more effective than simply enforcement.
In June 1999, a captain from the California Highway Patrol assumed the command position of MAGEC. The respected agency delivered a vast level of experience and provided a new channel of reputable training resources. This complemented and increased the successful momentum of MAGEC throughout California. The men and women of MAGEC believe that the multi-agency and multi-level approach to combat gang crime is the most comprehensive and effective method in existence. The reduction of gang crime is evident throughout Fresno County.
Currently, a CHP captain leads the MAGEC Unit. During the last few years, different tactics have been deployed to combat gang violence. One of the most successful tools used to date are the gang injunctions. These injunctions allow law enforcement greater leverage in combating gangs. With injunctions in place gang members are no longer allowed to participate in gangs, nor are they allowed to wear gang clothing and group up in public. This has reduced gangs' ability to intimidate the public they prey on.
Lt. Steve McComas