NORCROSS -- Whether it was a right-place-right-time scenario, or the polar opposite of that, is a matter of perspective.
What's certain is that four gang members with ambitions of pilfering vehicles in Norcross picked the wrong neighborhood in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, police told the Daily Post.
The five suspects -- ages 14 to 22 -- hail from across metro Atlanta and consider themselves members of the Bloods street gang. They ventured into Gwinnett in a stolen 2007 Chevrolet Avalanche with a singular purpose: To steal from Hispanic immigrants, whose propensity for carrying cash and reluctance to call police appeals to criminals, authorities said.
"They said they were coming to Norcross to victimize Hispanics," said the city's police spokesman, Capt. Brian Harr. "They thought Norcross would be a good place for that."
Police received a call about a suspicious vehicle -- the Avalanche -- about 2 a.m. in the Sunset Hills subdivision, a well-established neighborhood off Peachtree Street brimming with longtime residents, Harr said.
As police were checking into that vehicle, confirming it stolen from DeKalb County, another resident about 1 -1/2 blocks away reported two suspicious males walking through the area, who bolted at the first sign of cops. Other officers spotted three more males; foot pursuit involving K-9 police and various law enforcement agencies ensued.
The suspects shed backpacks and valuables but police eventually tracked down all five in the same neighborhood. An investigation revealed that in the previous hour they'd entered garages and at least a dozen vehicles -- most of them unlocked -- to filch money, GPS devices, cell phones, even a bottle of Captain Morgan rum, Harr said.
"We were actually giving back property before people knew it was gone," Harr said. "We've recovered more property than has been reported stolen. We're sure they were doing this somewhere prior to coming to our area."
In interviews, most of the suspects were reportedly forthcoming about their gang affiliation. None are from Gwinnett. "They were pretty open about their affiliation with the Bloods, so we charged them," Harr said.
Along with the unnamed juvenile, police arrested Telvan Tillis, 19, and Terriontae Robinson, 22, both of Stone Mountain, Benjamin Wyche, 19, of Jonesboro, and Jashuan Moore, 18, of Clarkston.
On Wednesday the four adults remained jailed in Gwinnett on charges of entering an auto, participation in gang activity and criminal trespass.
Harr saluted the tight-knit community for its assistance. "Not too many people are awake at 2 a.m., but the calls we got were very helpful," he said.