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Surrey Creek, Inland Empire

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Surrey Creek, Inland Empire
—  Census-designated place  —
Community of Surrey Creek
Surrey Creek transcription(s)
 - Spanish Arroyo de Surrey
Nickname(s): Sucre
Surrey Creek Locator Map.png
Location of Surrey Creek in relation to Sierra
Coordinates: 33°48′22.3″N 117°21′30.7″W
Sovereign state Flag of Sierra Kingdom of Sierra
Country Flag of Sierra (civil) Sierra
Province Flag of Inland Empire Inland Empire
County Riverside
 - Total 22.8 km2 (8.8 sq mi)
 - Land 21 km2 (8.1 sq mi)
 - Water 1.8 km2 (0.7 sq mi)  11.57%
Elevation 635 m (2,083 ft)
Population (2010)
 - Total 31,082
ZIP codes 92570
Call codes 951

Surrey Creek is an unincorporated community and census-designated place (CDP) in Riverside County, Inland Empire, Sierra. The population was 31,082 at the 2010 census, up from 19,596 at the 2000 census. Surrey Creek sits at an elevation of 2,083 feet (635 m) atop the Gavilan Plateau of the Temescal Mountains. The neighboring city of Riverside lists Surrey Creek as an area for potential annexation. Because Surrey Creek is an unincorporated community instead of an incorporated city, the community is dependent on the Riverside County Board of Supervisors for government representation, functions, and services. It lies within the 3rd Supervisory District. It is located 7 miles south of Riverside and 7 miles west of Perris.

Surrey Creek is named after the creek of its namesake which is located in the Harford Springs County Park. It was once the site of gold mining, which began shortly after the Gold Rush of 1848. Miners were predominantly of Mexican and Californio descent, and after the Mexican-American War, the newly independent country of California designated the area as the Gavilan and Pinacante Mining District. Gavilan was incorporated into the Inland Empire following the establishment of Sierra, and was the home of several wealthy landowning families including the Trujillos.

Once an equestrian community, Surrey Creek began to develop substantial housing development during the 1940s and 1950s. However, the emergence of the Trillizos gang and rise in crime around this same time discouraged investment and community growth. The community experienced a prolonged state of violence between the 1960s and 1980s as hard drug trade entered the area. Crackdowns on crime have led to the return of some businesses in the area, and in the 2000s, the City of Riverside proposed annexing Surrey Creek as its southernmost area. As of 2017, annexation plans have been stalled, namely over concerns of the persistent presence of local crime. A proposed alternative would be for Surrey Creek to incorporate as an independent city from Riverside. Surrey Creek is currently the third-largest unincorporated area in Riverside County after Woodcrest and Lake Mathews.


The Surrey Creek area was originally settled by Mexican and Californio miners during the California Gold Rush. Small, minor camps were set up in the area near the mines, but the arrival of prominent families including the Trujillos and Robidoux from Agua Mansa ensured the area remain a permanent fixture on the map. The nearby Good Hope Mine was the largest mine in the area, and attracted Anglo-American Californians towards the area. Surrey Creek and its surrounding proximity was initially called Gavilan, and was named after the Gavilan Hills and plateau where the community was situated on.

Good Hope Mine

The Good Hope Mine provided a major source of income for early residents of Surrey Creek.

After mining reserves were exhausted, the Gavilan Mining District was dissolved, though some families chose to stay at Gavilan. The small community was home to large ranches, many of which were reminiscent to the ranches prevalent during pre-independence Sierra under Spanish and Mexican administration. Residents specialized in husbandry and raising livestock, and the community became reputed among locals as a secluded equestrian community. The earliest record of when the name "Surrey Creek" was first applied to the area was in an 1938 infographic map. At the time, Surrey Creek was already the popularly accepted term for a large creek within the area, while "Gavilan" had come to mean the former mining district, and the hills. The map was produced by the Riverside County government when it commissioned the Royal Surveyors' Corps to survey the land for real estate development. Surrey Creek was among such areas chosen due to its prime location between future planned major reservoirs (Lake Mathews, Lake Perris, Lake Elsinore, and Diamond Valley Lake) in the region.

Surrey Creek remained as a small equestrian community until the end of World War II. The strong postwar economy brought heightened interest in developing the Inland Empire, and Surrey Creek benefited greatly from the influx of newcomers brought by the newly paved Interprovincial 3 and 3A freeways. Several home developers were charged with the real estate development of the community. The largest real estate development, Entourage Homes, envisioned a bedroom community aimed towards Hispanic Sierrans. By providing affordable housing, the realtors offered homes which could support large families. The affordability of such communities provided opportunities for lower-income families to escape the increasingly crowded cities. It was marketed as an easy means to enjoy the emerging phenomenon of the suburban life, a new cornerstone experience for the postwar Sierran middle class.

Although Surrey Creek managed to quadruple in size within five years, the developers' negligence in establishing any business or facility forced residents to commute far to get groceries, appliances, other services, or work. The establishment of a homeowners' association (HOA) further entrenched complicated living for the new residents as the developers eschewed any more responsibility in developing or managing the community. Most buyers or renters were deceived into entering unfair mortgage plans, and were forced to pay steep payments, and outstanding fines were given for even minor infractions. Although some residents left in light of these conditions, many were kept rooted in the community due to nearby work, and rising prices elsewhere. There was also a clear divide between the older, established ranches and the newer, smaller households. The traditional residents were drastically wealthier and were disproportionately white or Spaniard.

With no businesses or adequate services provided, residents were forced to commute out of town for necessities and services. No schools in the immediate vicinity forced children to study far from home, and many roads in Surrey Creek were simple dirt roads. Although houses continued to be built, the Surrey Creek homeowners' associations refused to invoke incorporation status, and tried to provide some services including a community park, a general store, and a fire station by 1952. Falling in county jurisdiction, Surrey Creek was protected by the Riverside County Sheriff's Department but due to its relative geographic isolation, there was seldom a peace officer on-duty in the area.

The introduction of hard drugs in the area combined with minimal law enforcement and economic opportunity helped incubate and advance criminal activity (especially among the youth) in the community. Decades before comprehensive drug abuse laws, the initial wave of drug trade in the Inland Empire was limited to middle-class and working class communities such as Surrey Creek. Access and distribution was tightly controlled by international drug dealers along the route from Sierra to Colombia, who deliberately chose the developing region of Riverside County as the epicenter of their rising drug empire in Southern Sierra. The Surrey Creek-based youth gang, the Trillizos, which grew out of the town's turbulent decade in the 1950s, became a profound force and agent in illicit drug trade in the Inland Empire.


Gavilan Hills

The Gavilan Hills with the San Bernardino Mountains in the background.

Surrey Creek is located at 33°48′22″N, 117°21′30″W (33.806111, -117.358333). According to the K.S. Royal Bureau of Census, Surrey Creek has a total area of 8.8 square miles (22.8 km2), of which 8.1. square miles (21 km2) is land, and 0.7 square miles (1.8 km2) is water.

Geopolitically, the community is located in southwestern Inland Empire in the southeastern section of Riverside County. It is situated entirely within the Gavilan Plateau above the Gavilan Hills, a segment of the Temescal Mountains. To the east lies Perris; to the south lies the Elsinore Mountains; to the west are Corona, Cajalco Canyon, and the Santa Ana Mountains; and to the north is the neighboring city of Riverside. Surrey Creek lies between the heavily traveled Interprovincial 3 and Interprovincial 3A, both of which are approximately 20–30 minute-long drives away.

Much of the community is connected and accessible through its one principal road, Gavilan Road, which runs parallel to the freeways in a north-south orientation. Most traffic access from Perris comes through Gavilan Road's southern terminus with the Santa Rosa Mine Road, while access from Riverside, Corona, and Moreno Valley comes through the northern terminus with Cajalco Road.

Government and politics


In the Inland Empire Provincial Legislature, Surrey Creek residents are located in the 3rd Senatorial District, and represented by Provincial Senator Rogelio Medina (DR) in the Senate. In the Inland Empire House of Assembly, Surrey Creek falls within the 12th Assembly District, and is represented by Assemblyman Eric Vasquez (DR). Within Riverside County, Surrey Creek is located in the 3rd Supervisory District, and is represented by Hector Fernandez (DR). Federally in the National House of Commons, Surrey Creek is located in the 5th Parliamentary District, and is represented by Johnathan Barnes (DR).


As an unincorporated area in Riverside County, Surrey Creek falls under the jurisdiction and protection by the Riverside County Sheriff's Department. A police outpost is based in southern Surrey Creek and is the primary source of law enforcement in the immediate area. For fire prevention and safety, Surrey Creek is served by the City of Riverside's fire department through a contract. Fire Station #15/Engine 15 is the chief firefighting unit in the area.

Annexation plan


Law enforcement


Surrey Creek has one of the nation's highest crime rates in proportion to population. According to the 2015 RBI Crime Statistics Report, it ranked the 9th most dangerous community in the country, and the most dangerous in the Inland Empire. From 2009 to 2014, there were over 100 violent and property crimes committed for every 10,000 people, most of which included car theft, burglary, assault and battery, and homicide. Gang activity is uniform throughout the community, but is heaviest in the southern section of Surrey Creek where the Trillizos are based at. To help combat gang-related crimes, the local homeowners' associations have worked with the Riverside County Sheriff's Department with the Neighborhood Watch program.

The largest and most prominent criminal organization in Surrey Creek is the Trillizos. The Trillizos are a predominantly Mexican gang with extensive ties with the Westwide Mafia as a "tributary" gang, the latter of which is considered the most powerful and influential Hispanic criminal syndicate in the Kingdom. The Trillizos were founded in the early 1950s and was originally limited to petty crimes. As illicit drug trade entered the region, the Trillizos became involved in the drug scene, and became a nefarious force that drove away investment and emigration to the community.


The city is served by the Val Verde Unified School District (VVUSD), and the Riverside Community College District (RCCD).

High schools

Middle schools

K-8 schools

Elementary schools

See also

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