District Attorney Summer Stephan
District Attorney Summer Stephan speaks at the press conference announcing the crackdown. Image from her Twitter feed

Local political and law enforcement officials announced dozens of arrests and seizures of an array of guns and illicit drugs as part of a 10-month “takedown” of a large San Diego-area criminal network.

The multi-agency effort, dubbed “Operation Red Rider,” sought to dismantle a “well-organized crime syndicate,” San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said Tuesday.

“And this operation’s takedown was done through painstaking and lengthy investigation at the front end, and high-risk execution of search warrants and arrests at the back end,” Gloria told reporters during an afternoon news conference.

“In doing so, San Diego Police Department (personnel) and our law enforcement partners disrupted a criminal organization that was preying on San Diegans and making our communities less safe.”

The targeted crime gang has ties to various white supremacy groups, SDPD Chief David Nisleit said during the news conference at the downtown SDPD headquarters.

The investigation resulted in 70 felony arrests, the recovery of 24 stolen vehicles and the confiscation of seven guns, the city officials said. It also netted seizures of 530 rounds of ammunition, seven pounds of methamphetamine, nine ounces of fentanyl powder, 1,000 counterfeit oxycodone pills, six ounces of heroin, four ounces of ketamine and laboratory equipment used for manufacturing hash oil.

“These are the drugs that are killing our San Diego citizens,” Gloria said. “They are weapons that are being used to hurt our communities. And I’m pleased to say that now these criminals are being brought to justice.”

While the operation grew out of tips from the public about illicit narcotics activity in northern Clairemont, its focus soon expanded to include many other forms of organized crime across the city, Nisleit said.

“Detectives learned many of the subjects (who) frequented the area reported (information about) a larger criminal network that included drug trafficking, illegal gun sales, fraud and auto theft,” Nisleit told reporters.

The crackdown culminated last Thursday with the service of six search warrants in various neighborhoods and 31 simultaneous searches of inmate cells in state and federal prisons, as well as in local jails, Nisleit  said.