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Transnational Gangs
06/05/2009

17 arrested in anti-gang operation

California actions part of ICE's national anti-gang effort - Operation Community Shield

GILROY, Calif. - A total of 17 foreign nationals with ties to violent street gangs in Santa Clara County are facing federal and state criminal charges or deportation this morning following a day-long enforcement operation involving U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), two area police departments and the California Department of Justice Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement.

Yesterday's arrests were made as part of an ongoing initiative by ICE's National Gang Unit called "Operation Community Shield." As part of the initiative, ICE partners with other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies across the country to target the significant public safety threat posed by transnational street gangs. ICE received substantial assistance with the operation from the Gilroy and Morgan Hill police departments.

"This operation shows our collective resolve to attack and dismantle the street gangs that are threatening our neighborhoods," said Mark Wollman, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in San Francisco. "ICE will continue to use its unique immigration and customs authorities to target these organizations and combat the violence and intimidation they use to hold our communities hostage to fear."

Of the 17 gang members taken into custody during the enforcement action, at least five are facing prosecution on state or federal criminal charges, ranging from re-entry after deportation to drug violations. The remaining targets are foreign national gang members who were arrested on administrative immigration violations and placed in removal proceedings. They will be held in ICE custody and scheduled for a deportation hearing before an immigration judge.

Those arrested during the operation include a 25-year-old Mexican male with an outstanding deportation order whose criminal record includes prior convictions for burglary and drug charges. Also taken into custody during the operation was a female associate of an area street gang who was convicted of carrying a loaded gun in a public place.

The gang arrests occurred in four cities in Santa Clara County - Morgan Hill, San Jose, San Martin and Gilroy. The majority of those taken into custody are members of the Varrio Sur Rifa clique of the Sure?o Street Gang. In addition to the arrests, authorities also recovered a .38-caliber snub-nose revolver.

"The Gilroy Police Department was pleased to assist ICE in this effort to combat dangerous criminal street gang members," said Gilroy Police Chief Denise J. Turner. "In order to ensure that gang members do not intimidate and victimize our community members, the Gilroy Police Department will continue our efforts to dismantle criminal street gangs by building partnerships with the community and working cooperatively with outside agencies."

"The success of the operation is another example of what is accomplished through collaborative efforts," said Morgan Hill Police Chief Bruce Cumming. "The arrest of these gang members will have a positive impact on violent crime in our community."

Since Operation Community Shield began in February 2005, ICE agents nationwide have arrested more than 13,000 gang members and associates linked to more than 900 different gangs. More than 150 of those arrested were gang leaders.

The National Gang Unit at ICE identifies violent street gangs and develops intelligence on their membership, associates, criminal activities and international movements to deter, disrupt and dismantle gang operations by tracing and seizing cash, weapons and other assets derived from criminal activities.

Through Operation Community Shield, the federal government uses its powerful immigration and customs authorities in a coordinated, national campaign against criminal street gangs in the United States. Transnational street gangs have significant numbers of foreign-born members and are frequently involved in human and contraband smuggling, immigration violations and other crimes with a connection to the border.

To report suspicious activity, call ICE's 24-hour toll-free hotline at: 1-866-347-2423 or visit www.ice.gov.

Editor's Note: Digital still photos taken by ICE during the anti-gang enforcement operation are available. To receive those photos, contact the ICE Office of Public Affairs at (949) 360-3096.