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GANG CRIME SKYROCKETING IN UPSCALE ARIZONA CITY

Scottsdale: posh art galleries, trendy restaurants, multimillion-dollar golf courses, tony boutiques - and at least 350 gang members.

That should come as no surprise, says Scottsdale police Sgt. Brian Freeman."People don't come from Mesa, Tempe and Phoenix and stop at the borders," he said. "Bad things do happen here. We're getting to be a big city. Gangs are a fact of life."

Police blame gangs for a third of all juvenile crime in the city and say a half-dozen are active there. In the past 30 months, Scottsdale police have dealt with 350 gang members, some with pricey Troon, Troon North and Scottsdale Mountain addresses.

About 125 members, part of 88 gangs, live within the city limits, said Sgt. Mark Clark of the department's Youth Intervention Unit.

They dabble mostly in drugs and property crimes. But their influence is felt in every high school and junior high and most elementary schools in the city, Clark said.

"Every school probably will have a kid claiming gang membership. They want the esteem," he said. "What a sad statement."

Especially in a city where some of the hottest issues include desert preservation and power poles ruining pretty views, where recycling containers are mauve because that color blends in better with the homes, and where the image of "the West's most Western town" is everything.

This is a city that boasts 6.1 million tourists a year, a median household income of $57,000 and an unemployment rate of 2.7 percent. Sixty-two percent of residents have either attended college or earned a degree.

"We are grappling with something we know nothing about," said Cheryl Slobodnik, a Scottsdale mom whose son was assaulted by gang members because she reported two of them for stealing a pizza.

"People think, `Oh yeah, right, not in Scottsdale.' All of us tend to do that and all of a sudden, it hits home and you think, `Wow! This isn't just out there. It's right here.' "

The city, which is considering the formation of a gang squad, reported its first drive-by shooting four years ago, and it's first gang-related murder in October.

Three admitted gang members, ages 14, 16 and 17, were arrested and charged in the murder of Teresa Archuleta, a paralegal with the Maricopa County Attorney's Office.

Police believe the slaying was part of an initiation into the Oriental Boy Soldiers, an Asian gang. The suspects in Archuleta's killing didn't live in Scottsdale.

That wasn't the case with a new gang that terrorized neighborhoods around Saguaro High School in March before being dismantled within a month by police. The gang was the first to claim all of Scottsdale as its turf, Clark said.

The gang started as a graffiti "tagging" crew and quickly became the most violent in the city, targeting people it knew or knew of in a 12-day, seven-crime spree that included an armed robbery, an attempted carjacking, two beatings and a drive-by shooting. A second drive-by shooting March 19 was linked to another gang.

Assault-style weapons and random violence still are rare.

"When that happens, it takes it to a different level," Clark said. "It's violence just for violence.

"I'd like to think that's not coming, but I'm not naive. I don't want to be an alarmist, but you can expect more random violence."

Gang members, he said, are responsible for about 30 percent of the average of 132 incidents of juvenile crime reported each month in the city.

Past problems have been caused by all-girl gangs, Asian gangs and white supremacists. Earlier this year, police confiscated a roster for Wetback Power, the state's largest Hispanic gang in Scotts-dale.

"Scottsdale has to grow up because we are being very urbanized and we have to do things that I guess people in big cities do to protect our way of living and our standard of living that we have here," said Slobodnik, who began forming Parents and Teens Against Gangs while watching one of her son's friends recover from a separate beating.

One of the reasons for the increase in gang activity in Scottsdale is that families move their gang-involved children to the city in hopes of getting them away from that lifestyle.

"Now, all of a sudden they're living in Scottsdale, where kids idolize gang members," Clark said.