Detective Miko Santiago
16 Years On
Current: Gang Unit
For some reason, the gangsters view us totally differently from patrol. When I’m doing interviews at a shooting with a gang member, he’ll say, “You know the police tried to ask me questions, but I told them I wanted to wait and talk to you.” And I’m thinking, I’m the police, too.
I have come up to scenes where I probably know or recognize over half the people that have been killed. Once we find out who the shooter is, I know that person. You see the same faces over and over. Within each gang group you know who the violent ones are. You see it over and over. You see their pattern of crimes, how they do it and how they’re escalating.
What is the initiation process to get in a gang?
The jump ins. A lot of gangs still do it. They have different ways of jumping in. You can get beat in. You can get blessed in, which means you have a family member that’s one of the higher-ups in the gang world. You can do armed robbery. The women can get sexed in. They’re not in the gang, but they’re next to the gang. They hold the drugs for the boyfriend. They might even go do prostitution for the guy. Some of the women are proud of that. They claim, “I’m down with 74, I’m down with Holly Park.”
What are the worst things you’ve seen?
Multiple shootings. Also, the hard thing for me is when you have to see the family members. We attend gang funerals for intel and to protect. You don’t want any of the innocent people to be hurt. There are going to be kids and regular folks at this funeral. We have to see the mother who feels the pain of losing a child to gang violence. So for me, the worst would be attending the funeral and seeing that hurt on these people that have nothing to do with gangs. And they can’t understand why this goes on.