With a population of 329,427 (2011), Santa Ana is the county seat and largest city of populous Orange County, California. The Santa Ana District Office of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is part of the Los Angeles division.
According to the California Governor’s Office of Gang & Youth Violence Policy, Santa Ana is known as a center for street gangs. Currently, Santa Ana is home to 25 gangs (six Asian, one Blood, two Crips, 16 Hispanic), many of them actively involved in murder, assault and drug trafficking. The Santa Ana DEA has a long history of combating dangerous gangs. In 2008 DEA agents raided a drug trafficking gang operating in a low-income Santa Ana apartment complex. The arrest of 18 individuals and the seizure of 33 firearms, including assault weapons, made the complex a much safer place to live.
Street gangs are only one of the DEA’s targets. On April 1, 2013, a DEA investigation carried out with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department resulted in John Melvin “Pops” Walker pleading guilty to federal drug trafficking and tax evasion charges. Walker, who operated nine marijuana storefronts, earned roughly $25 million from marijuana sales over the last six years but reported only a fraction to the IRS. He earned $11.4 million in 2009 alone but claimed earnings of $200,180! Agents seized $545,000 in cash and four firearms in a search of his home.
How to Become a DEA Special Agent in Santa Ana
Men and women who are U.S. citizens between the ages of 21-36, in excellent physical condition, willing to relocate and with at least a four-year college degree or significant experience conducting drug-related investigations, are invited to apply to become a DEA special agent. Application information can be obtained online at the DEA website or from Adriana Guzman (213/621-7056), special agent recruiter for the Los Angeles division.
Those whose applications are accepted must successfully complete the following:
- Written examination
- Oral interview
- Drug test
- Physical fitness test
- Psychological assessment
- Background investigation
The hiring process may take a year after which recruits must attend a resident training camp in Quantico, Virginia. New agents start with an annual salary of either GS7-$49,746 or GS9-$55,483 with all federal employee benefits.
DEA Strategies & Operations in Santa Ana
DEA agents use a wide variety of tools, strategies and methods to destroy drug trafficking organizations. The book, “Drug Control: DEA Strategies & Operations in the 1990s,” edited by Norman Rabkin, calls attention to the value of wire tapping. A Santa Ana DEA task force combined the wiretapping of nine telephones with surveillance and informant information to bring down one of the largest Mexican methamphetamine manufacturing and distribution rings in Southern California. Two meth labs and four ephedrine (ingredient used in making meth) extraction labs were dismantled and 21 Mexican nationals were arrested.
DEA strategic plans have led to the formation of various programs//teams, including:
- Special Operations Division. Focuses on intercepting communications between top-level drug traffickers and their subordinates.
- REDRUM (murder spelled backwards). Investigates drug-related homicides.
- Mobile Enforcement Teams. Assist local law enforcement agencies in combating drug trafficking, especially by street gangs.
- Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program. Assists local law enforcement in controlling domestically grown marijuana.
- Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. Promotes cooperation among federal, state and local law enforcement groups in combating high-level criminal organizations.