OKLAHOMA CITY - Assisted by local law enforcement agencies, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) National Gang Unit arrested 46 people during a four-day operation targeting local foreign-born gang members and their associates.
The following law enforcement agencies also participated in the operation: Oklahoma City Police Department, Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office, and the FBI. The ICE Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) is coordinating the detention and deportation of the aliens being returned to their home countries.
"Our ICE HSI special agents routinely partner with locally based law enforcement agencies to target transnational gang members," said John Chakwin Jr., special agent in charge of the ICE HSI office in Dallas. "Gangs are responsible for a significant amount of crime throughout Oklahoma City and the country. These joint law enforcement operations help reduce this criminal threat to the public." Chakwin oversees the State of Oklahoma and 128 counties in north Texas.
This is the latest local effort in an ongoing national ICE HSI initiative to target foreign-born gang members and gang associates.
This multi-agency operation, which ended Sept. 11, targeted gang members and associates engaged in organized criminal activity. Twenty seven of those arrested during this operation are documented gang members or gang associates.
Most of those arrested were encountered in Oklahoma City. However, some known gang members were encountered in Lexington and McAlester, Okla., and one was arrested in Comanche County. Of those arrested, 28 are from Mexico, 12 are U.S. citizens, two are from El Salvador, two are from Guatemala, and two are from Honduras. They range in age from 18 to 50 years old; one woman was arrested. All the U.S. citizens were wanted or arrested on criminal charges, and turned over to local law enforcement.
In addition to the arrests, four firearms were also seized.
Those in ICE custody are charged with administrative immigration violations and are awaiting deportation. Twenty six of those arrested had been previously deported. Anyone who re-enters the United States after having been formally deported commits a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Those arrested during this four-day multi-agency operation represent the following five gangs: Culver City Boys, Grande Barrio Centrale, Juaritos, South Side Locos and Westside Hustler Crip. Information received by ICE HSI and other law enforcement indicates that criminal gangs are becoming increasingly involved in Oklahoma with smuggling and distributing narcotics, laundering illicit drug proceeds, and other illegal activities.
The arrests were made as part of Operation Community Shield, a national initiative whereby ICE partners with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to target the significant public safety threat posed by transnational criminal street gangs. Since Operation Community Shield began in February 2005, ICE agents nationwide have arrested more than 18,000 gang members and associates linked to more than 900 different street gangs. More than 200 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 seized activities.