Hiding in plain sight
Police have busted another illegal gambling operation that was being run out of an internet cafe in a strip mall in Santa Ana, California.
Law enforcement raided this location early on Tuesday morning, at approximately 5am. The raid took place on East 1st Street’s 2000 block, with the Santa Ana Police Department tweeting the news. Officers found a number of illegal gambling machines during their search.
45 people were arrested, including the manager of the premises
Footage released by CBC Los Angeles following the raid shows more than a dozen people being detained outside of the premises. In total, 45 people were arrested, including the manager of the premises. The owner of the facility was not present at the time of the raid.
Police have said that these games are similar to arcade games, but modifications were made to allow people to gamble on them.
Track record for shady behavior
According to police, this smoke shop does not have the necessary license allowing it to operate. While the sign on the store said it was a smoke shop, people in the locale said that there was never any tobacco in it. Many locals also said that it would be open at all hours during the night.
A number of nearby stores and businesses ended up vacating their premises due to criminal activity that was rife in the strip mall. Some of the previous incidents that law enforcement had to respond to at the same premises involved wanted suspects and firearms.
Santa Ana Police Corporal Anthony Bertagna spoke about how the presence of this operation was impacting the quality of life of people in the area. He said that these businesses operate around the clock and
the clientele that they bring are often involved in narcotics activities, prostitution, gang activity.”
Ongoing crackdown in Santa Ana
This is the latest in a number of raids the Santa Ana police have carried out in the region as of late against illegal gambling operations. There has also been a widespread crackdown in California as a whole. According to Bertagna, this strip mall raid was the largest illegal gambling operation that they have come across in the city to date.
Law enforcement is committed to this crackdown for a number of reasons. Bertagna referenced some of these reasons when he said: “We’ve had several shootings that occur at these establishments, so it’s a quality-of-life issue for our community and our business owners.”