Massive police raid targets 'one of largest crime hot spots in the city'

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- Officers and agents from several law-enforcement entities converged on a Phoenix apartment complex early Wednesday morning in the culmination of a yearlong investigation into gang-related activity.

According to Phoenix Police Sgt. Steve Martos, this joint operation involved ATF, the FBI, the Department of Public Safety, the Phoenix Police Department and the Maricopa County Attorney's Office.

Officers and agents arrived at the Winding Creek apartments at 25th Avenue Ocotillo Road, just southwest of Interstate 17 and Glendale Avenue,  at 5 a.m.

Aerial video from Chopper 3 showed about 70 officers and agents, as well as several police vehicles, including a command van.

Details were not immediately available, but this operation is connected to a yearlong investigation into gang-related activity. Martos said teams served several search and arrest warrants.

Police arrested at least 17 people, nine of whom were named in the warrants. The remaining eight were booked on outstanding warrants and drug possession charges. In addition, they detained the owner of the complex for questioning. Officers said everybody went quietly, offering no resistance.

Officers are still looking for 20 more people. At this point, investigators are not releasing the names of any of the suspects.

Video from the Fort McDowell Casino News Chopper showed at least two tow trucks taking two vehicles from the parking lot.

The investigation that led up to Wednesday morning's operation centers on drugs, weapons and a violent gang that has taken over not only Winding Creek, but the surrounding neighborhood, as well.

"This neighborhood was paralyzed by the activities of these individuals and their acts of intimidation," Phoenix Police Assistant Chief Sandra Renteria said during a news conference. She described the Winding Creek area as "one of largest crime hot spots in the city."

"We are here to say we will not allow criminals to take our neighborhoods and our city," she continued.

"To allow this kind of criminal activity to go on in a neighborhood is unconscionable in today's day and age," Phoenix Police Commander Benny Piña said, explaining that the Winding Creek owners and managers "seemed to be complicit with the criminal activity that was going on in this area." He said those people will be held accountable for their actions -- or lack thereof.

Piña also said it's essential for those living in the neighborhood to work with police and other law-enforcement agencies to help clean up the area.

"They need to actively call us ... to let us know about things that are going on in the area that our patrol officers can handle," he said.

Mary Radil, who is part of a program that brings food to children living in the area, said this needed to be done.

"The kids are living this stuff -- every day. They know the violence," Radil said. "They know what's going on. We see the drug dealing. We see the prostituting. ... It's time. All of these apartments need [to be] cleaned up."

As part of their operation, police closed the frontage road on the southbound side of I-17. The freeway on-ramp, however, was not affected. 3TV traffic reporter Gina Maravilla suggested drivers get on the freeway or take 27th Avenue to get around the closure. It's not clear how long that frontage road will be closed.