RICHMOND, Va. - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents here, in close partnership with local law enforcement agencies, arrested 46 street gang members and associates during a three-day effort that ended today in an ongoing national program called "Operation Community Shield."
The success of the operation was the result of an extensive collaborative between ICE Gang Investigation Unit Special Agents and multiple law enforcement agencies throughout the Richmond metropolitan area including: Virginia State Police, Virginia Office of the Attorney General, United States Attorney of the Eastern District of Virginia, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Department of State Diplomatic Security Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Chesterfield County Police Department, Chesterfield County Probation and Parole, United States Secret Service, Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General and the United States Postal Inspection Service.
Of those arrested, 20 were known gang members and 21 were identified gang associates affiliated with the MS-13, Sur-13, Latin Kings, and Vatos Locos street gangs. Those arrested were from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico. Five search warrants were conducted and numerous cases are being presented for federal and/or state prosecution.
"Drawing on our combined investigative authorities, ICE's coordinated efforts with federal and local law enforcement agencies resulted in the identification and arrest of 46 gang members and associates from Virginia communities this week," said Mark McGraw, special agent in charge of ICE's Office of Investigations in Washington, D.C. "By working together we underscore our multi-jurisdictional commitment to identify, target and arrest violent transnational gang members whose activities are often as brazen as they are deadly and let them know they are not welcome in our country."
"I applaud the efforts of local, state, and federal law enforcement in this ICE initiative to apprehend dangerous gang members in the Richmond Metropolitan area," said Virginia State Attorney General Bob McDonnell. "The successful arrests of more than 40 gang members, who have violated our nation's immigration laws, illustrate the positive work that can be done when law enforcement agencies work together. The Office of the Attorney General will continue to participate in efforts such as this to ensure the safety of the citizens of the Commonwealth."
"The Virginia State Police are committed to ridding our communities of criminals, especially gang members and their associates," said Colonel W. Steven Flaherty, Virginia State Police Superintendent. "No community of individuals deserves to be preyed upon by gangs and their criminal enterprises. This multi-agency operation sends a strong message concerning Virginia's zero tolerance of gangs and their activities."
Operation Community Shield is a national law enforcement initiative that partners ICE with other federal, state and local law enforcement combining resources, authorities and expertise in an effort to target members of violent street gangs. Since ICE began Operation Community Shield in February 2005, more than 8,000 gang members belonging to more than 700 different gangs have been arrested.
To report suspicious activity, members of the public should call the ICE's toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423. This hotline is staffed around the clock.