A Westminster neighborhood is safer thanks to city police and an area SWAT team raid of an illegal gambling den on Thursday, June 3.
The warrant served on the Yuba Avenue “slaphouse” — a nickname for gambling establishments because of the slapping noises coming from the occupants inside who frantically push buttons on video game-like gambling machines — yielded five suspects. They were arrested for various gambling- and narcotics-related offenses, as well as for other arrest warrants.
Police seized cash, gambling machines and narcotics at the house, said Westminster Police Cmdr. Cord Vandergrift, who helped lead the multi-agency effort.
The multiagency effort involved some 40 officers and two K9s (one from Westminster and one from Cypress). In addition to Westminster and Buena Park police, the West County SWAT division came out in full force, including two armored vehicles, a mobile command center and a crisis negotiation team (CNT). The SWAT team involved personnel from Fountain Valley, Cypress, Westminster, Seal Beach and Los Alamitos police departments.
Slaphouses are unfortunately common in Westminster, as they are in other cities, Vandergrift said. Raids have been happening about once a month.
The department generally hears about the houses because of citizen complaints.
“While there is illegal gambling happening in them, there may also be drugs, weapons and prostitution,” Vandergrift added.
The slaphouses are also to known to house dangerous criminals, including people with past weapons charges.
Thursday’s raid involved surveillance to obtain the warrant. Once the teams were ready to go, a drone camera was the police eye in the sky as dozens of officers descended upon the house.
One armored car breached through a backyard fence and broke a sliding glass door to gain entry to the house, where they discovered several gambling machines in the living and dining room. Another armored car parked on the front lawn.
Throughout the operation, police watched the drone footage from their mobile command post and listened to ongoing radio calls. The drone also helped track any suspects fleeing from the scene or other activity that would impede the police efforts.
Thursday’s raid was the fourth gambling house police have served warrants on in 2021, according to Vandergrift. From those, 37 people have been arrested, more than $30,000 in cash confiscated, and numerous illegal weapons, drugs and gambling machines seized.