“These people are not heroes,” Deeley said. “These gang members, they shoot people from behind, (they attack people) five-on-one. They’re not going to stand up to a neighborhood that’s standing up against them.” Deeley cautioned against confronting suspected gang members, saying private citizens should provide as much information to law enforcement as possible. “We’re asking people to get on the telephone and give us information,” Deeley said. “We survive by getting information from the public; that’s the key to solving crimes anywhere.” The rapid emergence of Antelope Valley criminal street gangs has alarmed many local residents. Lancaster gang detail Sgt. Derek Yoshino said about 5,000 local gang members have been tracked in a database, and about 10,000 have passed through the Antelope Valley since 2001, when the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Operation Safe Streets program came to the area. LANCASTER – If we build it, they will run. That’s the message Lancaster sheriff’s station Capt. Carl Deeley wants to get out to local residents interested in helping law enforcement’s crime prevention efforts but fearful of retaliation from organized criminal street gangs. Deeley said by banding together and forming Neighborhood Watch groups, private citizens concerned about potential retaliation can effectively intimidate the intimidators. A newly formed grass-roots group called Antelope Valley War on Gangs and Crime is seeking public involvement in its crime-fighting effort. At its first public meeting on Monday, the group distributed information on volunteering in crime-prevention efforts including Neighborhood Watch groups. Sheriff’s investigators have identified 63 criminal street gangs in Palmdale and 113 in Lancaster, with varying memberships, Yoshino said. He said it can take several months before a Neighborhood Watch is officially sanctioned by law enforcement, but the public doesn’t need to wait that long to provide information that could help law enforcement solve crimes. He said the best way to start the formation process is by communicating with neighbors and organizing meetings, which can be at a home, church or business. Yoshino advises residents to be proactive, noting that even in neighborhoods that haven’t reported much crime, street gangs could already be scouting homes seeking easy targets. He said most Antelope Valley street gangs don’t have historical ties to neighborhoods and blocks as do L.A.-area gangs, so they might be more willing to set up shop elsewhere. “Someone in that neighborhood needs to get the ball rolling,” Yoshino said. “Once it gets going, you’ll start to see a remarkable difference.”160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!