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Gangs migrate to area

Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

With its plentiful construction, restaurant and hotel jobs, Park City might be becoming a preferred stop for gang members fleeing California authorities, lawmen investigating the migration of the gangs said in interviews this week.

They acknowledge that the gang activity in Park City is minimal compared to other locations but recent arrests seem to link the city to gangs from Northern California. The police have arrested two people in two months who they say have ties to gangs, each coming to Park City from the same area in Northern California.

Bartholomeu Gurrola and a 17-year-old woman, whose name was not released because she is a minor, were arrested in Park City. The 17-year-old is from Porterville, Calif., and authorities in Tulare County, Calif., where Porterville is located, wanted Gurrola on charges including being a member of a street gang.

"It’s not so much they’re coming up here to commit crimes. They’re associates down there and trying a fresh start," said Phil Kirk, a lieutenant in the Park City Police Department.

Kirk said gangs are not currently a significant problem in Park City but that authorities want to ensure that the gangs do not gain footholds in the area. The Police Department, he said, works with the Metro Gang Unit in Salt Lake City.

The Metro Gang Unit, which primarily operates in the Salt Lake Valley, is monitoring Park City and surrounding Summit County, said Bill Robertson, a sergeant with the gang unit.

He said, for instance, that members of the Nortenos gang, which the police say the 17-year-old is affiliated with, have been in the Park City area for about five years.

"We know that there’s a growing population of gang members up there. It doesn’t seem to be decreasing," Robertson said, adding that suspected gang members from the Park City area have been linked to an aggravated assault in Midvale in 2005.

He praised the Police Department and the Summit County Sheriff’s Office for their handling of the gangs.

Robertson said the gang members find work in the Park City area as bouncers, shuttle drivers or working for real-estate developments.

"He’s going to tell them, this is a good gig," Robertson, describing them as "homeys."

Robertson said gang members from the Porterville area are better able to dodge the authorities there by relocating to places like the Park City area, where they can hide from arrest warrants and earn money.

"It’s almost like a different world for them," he said.

Carl Jordan, a detective with the Police Department in Porterville, said his department has received information that "a lot" of suspected gang members have "stumbled" to the Park City area. He surmises that the area’s strong economy is the draw.

"When things get hot, they’re always looking for somewhere to hide," Jordan said.

The 17-year-old is wanted in Porterville on charges of carjacking, kidnapping and robbery, he said.

He said the Nortenos gang is violent in his area.

Guns and knives are popular with the gang members, he said, and Jordan worries about gang-related retaliation against members who go to the authorities.

"Around here, several of the Nortenos gangs have had murders, shootings," he said.


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