by Araceli Esparza
Behind the University of La Verne’s Ortmayer Stadium, opposite the north end of Arrow Highway, a variety of names and designs are graffitied proudly on the city walls. From the scene, it is evident that a series of gang members have made their mark, claiming these illustrations as signs which signify their territory.
According to Sergeant Rick Aragon, detective bureau sergeant for the La Verne Police Department (LVPD), a number of gangs exist in La Verne. Of these, only two specific gangs are most active within the city.
TRK (The Ruthless Klan) and LVR (La Verne Rifa) are most recognized in La Verne.
“They’re potentially more dangerous than the average citizen,” said Sgt. Aragon.
In regards to crimes that occur within La Verne city limits, Sgt. Aragon confirms that a number of incidents involving shootings can be attributed to both the LVR and TRK gangs. Recently, the most serious of these incidents was a homicide which occurred in the beginning of 1996.
“Basically they go into each others’ neighborhoods and shoot up,” said Officer Nick Paz, narcotics detective for the LVPD. “The shootings are not constant; they get mad at each other and do something to each other. The only things they do constantly is tag [graffiti] buildings on a weekly basis.”
Although some of the gang members’ art may not be too common around ULV’s campus, it is most existent on the south side of the city. The gangs are south-La Verne based and have been around for quite some time.
From memory, Sgt. Aragon recalled that the LVR gang has “been around a long time.” He speculated that LVR has been active within the city for about 30 years, in fact.
The TRK, on the other hand, is more recent to the city, as it began about two to three years ago.
Said Officer Paz, “TRK started as a dance group, then it started getting into criminal activity. Their leader used to live in La Verne, but moved out. I believe he’s dead now; he got shot.”
According to Officer Paz, gang activity is not very familiar around the University, and gang members “pretty much leave students alone.”
From his experience, they are most active on weekends, late at night and when everyone’s “partying and drunk.” In addition, they may be responsible for occasional thefts, including those of personal belongings.
In regard to appearance, the gang members signal their existence through expressions of clothing and head coverings, through specific language, tattoos, hand signals, and tagging with graffiti.
According to LVPD, most gang members in the city are Hispanic males, generally in their mid-teens to early 20s.
Data provided by the LVPD shows that such young individuals become involved in gangs and in their activity scene because it promises a sense of belonging to a group, of protection, of earning money, of excitement and of being with friends. In some situations, it is even a family tradition.
They may be organized around race or ethnic group, money-making activities and tactics, or territory.
LVPD can determine the area in which they congregate by the markings they leave behind.
“They are concentrated on the south behind the commercial businesses, in the area within Fairplex Drive and A Street,” said Officer Paz.
“You can’t say any [gang members] live on B Street [near the west end of Ortmayer Stadium],” Sgt. Aragon said. “It is an area in which they congregate.”
Both Sgt. Aragon and Officer Paz agree that these gangs are usually not a threat to the ULV students or campus, but there are reasons to be cautious.
“I wouldn’t recommend going out on an evening jog, and definitely not walk around alone,” Sgt. Aragon said.
“New students walk around the neighborhood because they want to look around,” Officer Paz said. “It is best to find out what areas to stay out of, and it’s important to always have someone with you.”