OMAHA, Neb. - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents here, in close partnership with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, made 17 arrests in a three-day operation targeting illegal aliens with ties to violent street gangs in Omaha and Council Bluffs. This is the latest joint action of an ongoing national ICE effort to target foreign-born gang members.
The 17 arrested include eight gang members and four gang associates of the MS-13, Sureños, Rebels and MBC gangs. ICE agents also arrested five illegal aliens with no known gang affiliation who were encountered during the targeted arrests. Sixteen were arrested in Omaha, and one in Council Bluffs. Eleven of those arrested have been convicted of crimes including: assault, possessing narcotics and distributing narcotics.
Six of those apprehended have been referred to the U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Nebraska, for possible criminal prosecution for a variety of offenses. One has been referred to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Iowa, for possible prosecution. Three of those arrested were previously deported. 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.
The multi-agency operation, which began Tuesday and ended Thursday night, targeted foreign-born gang members and associates in the metropolitan area. Of the 17 arrested, 15 are Mexican nationals, one is from El Salvador, and one is from Honduras. All are illegally present in the United States.
"Street gangs pose a growing public safety threat to communities throughout this area," said Bill Wallrapp, resident agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Omaha. "We will not tolerate violent gang activity in our communities. We will use all of 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 the Omaha Police Department, the Nebraska State Patrol, the Bellevue Police Department, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
Since ICE began Operation Community Shield in February 2005, more than 8,900 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.