Federal agents arrested nearly 300 gang members and associates in the Southland during a four-month operation that generated more than 1,700 arrests nationwide. The arrests were made under Operation Community Shield, a long-term initiative launched by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in 2005 to disrupt and dismantle “transnational” violent street gangs.
As part of the latest enforcement action, which ended Tuesday, ICE teamed with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to target violent street gangs and their criminal associates in 53 cities across 28 states.
During the operation, ICE agents arrested 1,759 gang members, gang associates, criminals and immigration violators, including 293 suspects in the greater Los Angeles area.
The Southland enforcement activities focused on targets in five area counties: Los Angeles, Riverside/San Bernardino, Orange and Ventura.
More than 70 of those arrested locally during the gang enforcement surge have prior convictions for violent crimes, and nearly 30 of those taken into custody are convicted sex offenders.
“Street gangs prey on the neighborhoods in which they operate, and they instill fear through intimidation and violence,” said ICE Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security Julie Myers. “By partnering with other law enforcement agencies across the country, we are successfully targeting these gangs, arresting their leaders, disrupting their operations, and putting their members and associates behind bars.”
ICE agents arrested 730 people on new criminal charges ranging from attempted murder and aggravated assault to drug and firearms violations and charges of re-entering the country after deportation.
More than 150 of those taken into custody locally during the operation are being prosecuted on federal or state violations.
Among those arrested in the Los Angeles area were:
—Juan Carlos Chavez, a 36-year-old Mexican national and member of the 18th Street Gang. He has prior convictions for firearms violations and battery. Chavez, who was deported from the U.S. in 2006, is being prosecuted for re-entering the country.
—Cesar Jimenez-Ramirez, 22, a Mexican national and suspected member of the Cudahy 13 gang. He has prior convictions for being a felon in possession of a firearm and grand theft. He was deported in June of this year and returned to the U.S. illegally. He is being prosecuted for re-entry after deportation, a felony violation that carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
Since 2005, ICE has arrested more than 11,100 members and associates from 890 different gangs and seized 388 firearms. Of those arrested, 145 were gang leaders. Many of those arrested under Operation Community Shield are prosecuted and eventually removed from the United States. To date, 3,997 have been charged criminally, and 7,109 have been charged with immigration violations and face deportation.