Archive · Fresno

Neutered: The Rise and Fall of the Dog Pound Gang

 

HOLD ONTO YOUR HATS, FRESNO

A half-dozen thoughts on how Operation Dog Track might reverberate through Fresno:

1.) Is there a connection between the Dog Pound Gangsters and the alleged Foster Drug Trafficking Organization (DTO)?

The Feds in March 2015 arrested a half-dozen people in the latter group, including its alleged kingpin Dennis “Denny” Foster. Among those arrested was Keith Foster, Denny Foster’s uncle and Fresno deputy police chief at the time.

The charges facing Keith Foster: Conspiracy to distribute or possess oxycodone, heroin and marijuana. Keith Foster, who soon retired from the police force, has pleaded not guilty.

Drugs, not prostitution, are at the heart of the Foster DTO charges. I didn’t see Denny Foster or Keith Foster mentioned in Smith’s affidavit, although I didn’t read all 256 pages closely.

An “Akili Foster” is mentioned in the affidavit, but near as I can tell, he doesn’t play a major role in events. The Bee reported in November 2015 that an “Akili Foster,” a known Dog Pound gang member, had been arrested in Southeast Fresno for being a gang member carrying a concealed firearm.

2.) Smith in his affidavit makes frequent reference to the monitoring by agents of suspects’ social media sites. Electronic intelligence-gathering clearly is pivotal to effective law enforcement.

Deandre Stanfill, the Dog Pound leader serving time in Kern Valley State Prison, told another Dog Pound gangster by phone to “get on” the younger guys for “internet banging.”

Wrote Smith: “I believe in the first part of the call, Stanfill was chiding his subordinate gang members for spending too much time on Facebook and essentially accused them of ‘internet banging.’ I know based on my participation in this investigation and other similar investigations that younger members of criminal street gangs typically post photographs on social media sites which they feel depict them as gang members and speak to the level of their commitment and success within the gang. I believe Stanfill was expressing frustration at the posturing and lack of willingness by younger members of the group to engage in acts of violence.”

Perhaps Smith’s affidavit will influence the City Council’s decision on the “Beware” computer service favored by Chief Dyer.

Beware uses powerful computers to crunch data in the public domain – such as that found on social media sites – to estimate the level of threat when peace officers answer a risky call for service at a specific address.

Fresno police tested Beware for about a year. Dyer wants the city to sign up for the service fulltime. He says Beware will protect both citizen and police officer.

But some council members are skeptical. They think Beware is too much like “Big Brother.” The council has yet to make a final decision on Beware.

It’s clear from Smith’s affidavit that Operation Dog Track would have stalled without the same kind of crunching of social media data that Beware does for a slightly different context.

3.) Deandre Stanfill in a phone call from prison reminisced with another Dog Pound gangster about the old days when, despite the best efforts of police, gang members filled Fresno’s air with bullets.

Smith wrote in his affidavit: “Stanfill said he had been in ‘the game’ forever watching the cops do what they do and he had never seen it that ‘hot’ and ‘(N-word)’ was still making stuff happen everyday.”

I read that and thought: Most Fresnans have no idea what our police officers go through every day, myself included.

I thought: Chief Dyer has been a Fresno cop for more than 35 years, much of that time on the front lines.

I thought: I heard a council member at last Thursday’s meeting question the integrity of Chief Dyer’s public commitment to do all he can to protect officers as they access the new Central Policing District station house at Manchester Center. Dyer was in the audience. No one on the council rose in protest of the comment.

I thought: Not the council’s finest hour.

4.) I’m reading “The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life” by sociologist Erving Goffman. Published in the United States in 1959, the book studies the efforts of a person to guide the impressions that others have of him in social settings.

We all do it.

“When an individual plays a part he implicitly requests his observers to take seriously the impression that is fostered before them,” Goffman wrote.

Based on Special Agent Smith’s affidavit, the Dog Pound Gangsters have definitely left a vivid impression of their “self” with me. I’m sure the impression I have is exactly the impression the Dog Pound Gangsters want me to have.

I’ll bet just about any Fresnan who reads Smith’s affidavit will also view the Dog Pound Gangsters exactly the way the Dog Pound Gangsters attempt to publicly present their “self.” I’ll bet anyone who spends much time in Southwest Fresno will come view the Dog Pound Gangsters exactly the way the Dog Pound Gangsters want to be viewed.

The Dog Pound Gangsters’ success in this regard does no favors for the city’s 2035 general plan, its new housing element, the Code Enforcement Task Force and the federal government’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule.

Maybe all Fresnans aren’t destined to live happily ever after stacked atop each other.

5.) In a similar vein, Smith’s affidavit pulls no punches when recording the vulgar talk of Dog Pound Gangsters. Since these gangbangers clearly are proud of their choice of words, and would welcome government’s help in spreading this vulgarity through the news media, why did agents go out of their way to give copies of the affidavit to reporters?

Maybe the agents want to see if the defendants use the same vulgarity in a federal courtroom when they’re facing a long stint in a federal prison.

Impressionable youngsters in and around “The Pound” also will be watching.

6.) Finally, Fresno in the coming months can expect to see the opening of two fronts of a remarkable revolution.

First, the trials of the Dog Pound Gangsters most likely will decimate the gang’s established leadership.

That will happen in the federal courthouse on Tulare Street between O and P streets in Downtown Fresno.

Second, there no doubt are a lot of young Dog Pound Gangsters just itching to replace the likes of James York. Who wouldn’t want to wake up in the morning with a magical pile of cash sitting on the bedroom dresser?

That will happen on the streets of Fresno.

George Hostetter is The Sun’s Fresno Civic contributor – covering the City of Fresno, County of Fresno, and Fresno Council of Governments.

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