These arrests were made under an ongoing national ICE initiative called "Operation Community Shield," in which ICE partners with other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to target the significant public safety threat posed by transnational street gangs. Partnerships with local law enforcement agencies are essential to the success of the initiative, and they help further ensure officer safety during the operations.
The multi-agency operation, which began Tuesday morning and ended Wednesday night, targeted foreign-born gang members and associates in the northern and northwest suburbs. All those arrested are Mexican men. Of the 17 arrests, 15 are illegal aliens and two are U.S. permanent residents whose previous criminal convictions make them eligible for deportation. They were all placed into administrative removal proceedings. During the operation ICE agents also seized small amounts of heroin and marijuana that were turned over to local authorities.
All except one are members or associates of the following gangs: Boulevard Latin Kings, Latin Counts, Latin Kings, and the Sureños-13. The one individual arrested without a gang affiliation was encountered during a consent search as ICE was looking for a specific gang target. During the search ICE agents encountered narcotics and turned the individual over to local authorities to face state charges for possession and distribution of heroin. He is in the U.S. illegally and will be deported after the criminal drug charges are resolved.
Eighteen men had criminal histories; some of their convictions and arrests include: aggravated battery, drunken driving, domestic battery, unlawfully possessing illegal drugs and firearms, theft, burglary and mob action.
"Street gangs pose a growing public safety threat to communities throughout this area," said Gary Hartwig, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Chicago. "We will not tolerate violent gang activity in our communities. We will use all our law enforcement tools to thwart criminal efforts of street gangs. Operation Community Shield shows how ICE works with our law enforcement partners to dismantle these criminal organizations and help protect our communities."
ICE was assisted in the operation by Boone County Sheriff's Office, and the following Illinois police departments: Aurora, Belvidere, Elgin, Hanover Park, Streamwood, Warrenville and West Chicago.
Since ICE began Operation Community Shield in February 2005, more than 12,500 gang members belonging to more than 900 different gangs have been arrested nationwide. More information on Operation Community Shield is available at: www.ice.gov.
The public is encouraged to report suspicious activity by calling ICE's toll-free hotline at: 1-866-347-2423. This hotline is staffed around the clock.