Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Dept. Major Crimes Unit arrested four male gang members from Goleta last week as part of a continuing investigation of a string of violent Isla Vista assaults.

Since April 14, the I.V. Foot Patrol has taken 12 assault reports – including numerous reports of stabbing and clubbing – in which most of the victims described their attackers as Hispanic gang members, Sheriff’s Dept. Lt. Mike Burridge said. The majority of victims were I.V. residents, with the exception of Oxnard gang members Edward Garcia and Antonio Becerra, who were reportedly stabbed on April 22.

On May 16, investigators arrested 22-year-old Daniel Miranda in connection with the April 22 assaults. On May 23, after obtaining a gang association search warrant for over a dozen homes where alleged gang members live, police arrested three more suspects and rearrested Miranda after finding illegal possessions, Burridge said.

As a result of the search, the department’s Problem Oriented Policing Team arrested 18-year-old Jacabo Pizano for possession of concentrated cannabis and a juvenile probation violation, 21-year-old José Pizano for violation of probation and possession of a deadly weapon and a 16-year-old male for fighting in public in relation to the April 22 attacks. Miranda, who is still in Santa Barbara County Jail, was rearrested after investigators reportedly found a billy club, considered a deadly weapon, at his residence.

“If they’re certified as a gang member, they’re on probation. Under probation terms, they are subject to search and seizure at any time. When we want to do a search, we contact Probation [Dept.] to tell them and to confirm that the terms are still valid,” Burridge said.

IVFP Lt. Russ Birchim said while the four suspects may not have all been directly involved in the recent assaults, the department hopes these arrests will discourage future attacks.

“It’s hard to say if [the arrests last week] are affiliated with the assaults. We’ve had the POP team here the last four weeks, over near Children’s Park, an area where a lot of kids congregate. They know the beat is on,” he said. “There are so many [assaults] at once – I don’t know what to attribute it to. It goes in waves, but when we see an increase of gang members from Oxnard and Ventura here, we try to get the gang team out there.”

Birchim said gang members do not perpetrate all the violence in I.V., but the POP team believes the increase in assaults since April 14 can be attributed to the local gang Goleta-13 or “G-13.” Prior to that date, there was an average of one assault a week.

“These assaults have happened in addition to other violence we see between students,” Birchim said.

“We had the assault numbers really low, and they took a tremendous jump. I think someone got out of prison or came back into town and started stirring things up,” former IVFP Lt. Butch Arnoldi said. “Basically, they’re ‘marking their turf’ – it sounds like the graffiti has increased tremendously as well. It’s what guys do to say ‘stay out of here,’ but with all the arrests [that occurred last week], we’re going to send the message out – like those guys a few years ago with bike locks that we caught.”

Investigators expect to make more arrests and are requesting any witnesses to contact the department with information, Burridge said.

“[We narrow down suspects] through the normal investigative process, interviewing witnesses and victims,” he said. “We may know who individuals are; deputies may have been out there contacting [suspects]. We also have photographic lineups with six pictures that victims look at, and if they’re identified, we can make an arrest.”

Birchim said I.V. residents should contact the Foot Patrol if they are confronted.

“I would tell students to walk away if they are confronted by kids bent on some sort of altercation,” he said. “Try not to walk alone at night, especially late at night in dark areas, which is what most of I.V. is. If you are confronted by someone looking for trouble, don’t engage them; it’s just common sense. A lot of the kids attacked have been drunk – if you’ve had a few, don’t let it influence your decisions.”