Gang concerns at Cowboys/Raiders practice

OXNARD, Calif. -- The joint practices between the Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders are a Super Bowl of sorts for the Oxnard Police Department.

The police presence would be increased regardless of which team came to Oxnard to practice against the Cowboys. But it's especially important with the Raiders coming to town.

That's because two of Ventura County's most violent street gangs wear the apparel of the two teams. The Colonia Chiques, the county's largest gang, wear Cowboys gear. The Southside Chiques wear Raiders gear.

"There's obviously a gang rivalry between the two, but we've seen nothing that's seeped its way out here at all," Oxnard police commander Andrew Salinas said as the crowd filed in a little more than an hour before Tuesday afternoon's practice. "We feel that the steps we have taken to proactively approach this event have helped greatly. As you can see, it's a family event and everyone's having a good time."

Those steps started with doubling the normal police presence for practices. Salinas said there are approximately 30 officers on the scene, including a K-9 bomb unit, plain-clothes officers in the stands and parole and probation officers.

The Oxnard police also installed an observational tower in the parking lot that provides a view of the entire facility and increased searching methods at the front gate to prevent fans from entering with weapons and/or alcohol.

The Cowboys/Raiders-related gang rivalry was the lead story in Tuesday's edition of the Ventura County Star. The city's gang injunction forbids known gang members from wearing the team-affiliated gear within certain "safety zones," but the River Ridge facility is not included in that area.

Salinas said Ventura County's violent crime rate has "plummeted" in the 10 years since Oxnard implemented the gang injunction. Nevertheless, it was identified a significant concern as soon as the practices between the Cowboys and Raiders were scheduled.

"There was an initial concern, but after seeing this evolve today, there's been very little concern with that at all," Salinas said. "We were more concerned actually with the fan rivalry than we were with the gang situation and what it represents here in this community. Other than that, we've been very happy with what's transpired here."