BLOOMINGTON, Minn. - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents - in partnership with local, state and federal law enforcement officers - arrested 50 gang members, gang associates and immigration violators in the greater Twin Cities area during a two-week operation that ended Friday. This is the latest joint action of an ongoing national ICE effort to target transnational gang members called "Operation Community Shield."
Of the 50 arrested during this operation, 35 are gang members; seven are gang associates. They represent the following 10 area gangs: Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), Sureño 13, Vatos Locos, 18th Street Gang, Murda Gang, Somali Outlaws, We So Krazy (WSK), Gangster Disciples, Bloods, and Native Mob.
ICE agents also arrested eight illegal aliens with no known gang affiliation who were encountered during the targeted arrests. Thirty-eight of those arrested are illegal aliens and have been placed in deportation proceedings. They include aliens from the following countries: Mexico (29), Honduras (6), El Salvador (2) and Ecuador (1).
Participating law enforcement agencies also arrested 10 U.S. citizens and two U.S. permanent residents ("green card" holders) on various state and federal charges, including: possessing weapons, possessing illicit drugs, and criminal traffic offenses.
Twelve of those arrested had previous convictions which included: assault, possessing illicit drugs, damage to property, burglary, disorderly conduct, and drunken driving.
The multi-agency operation, which began July 28 and ended Aug. 9, targeted transnational gang members and associates in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. This ICE-led operation was conducted in partnership with the Metro Gang Strike Force. Other participating agencies included: Brooklyn Park Police Department; Richfield Police Department; the Minnesota State Patrol; the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension; and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
"Street gangs pose a growing public safety threat to communities throughout Minnesota," said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Bloomington. "This operation shows how ICE works with our law enforcement partners to disrupt and dismantle these criminal organizations." Arnold oversees a five-state area, which includes: Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota.
"Everyone is finally realizing that no law enforcement agency can successfully address the gang problem alone," said Jim Heimerl, assistant commander of the Metro Gang Strike Force. "Together, we can make a positive impact on community safety."
Most of the arrests were made in Minneapolis and St. Paul; however, arrests were also made in the following local cities: Richfield, Brooklyn Park, Brooklyn Center, Crystal, Maplewood, Columbia Heights and West St. Paul.
Three of those apprehended have been referred to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Minneapolis for criminal prosecution - two for re-entering the United States after having been deported, and one for possessing a controlled substance. It is a felony to re-enter the United States after being formally deported, punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison.
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 address 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.
Since ICE began Operation Community Shield in February 2005, more than 10,000 gang members belonging to more than 700 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.