MIAMI - Fifty-three members and associates of violent street gangs in South Florida were arrested in a two-day law enforcement operation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the City of North Miami Beach Police Department (NMBPD), and the Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD). Of the 53 gang members and associates, 11 were arrested on federal criminal charges, 39 were arrested on state criminal charges and three were arrested on immigration charges.
In early 2007, ICE's Miami Violent Gang Task Force, along with gang detectives from the MDPD and NMBPD Gang Units, initiated an investigation into a number of criminal street gangs in the South Florida area. Subsequently, in January 2008, as a result of the increase in violent crime and gang activity in the City of North Miami Beach, culminating in the shooting death by gang members of City of Miami Police Detective James Walker, ICE, NMBPD, and MDPD joined forces to target street gang members trafficking narcotics and operating in North Miami Beach. The undercover resources from ICE, NMBPD, and MDPD, as well as officers from the various law enforcement agencies, were used to proactively attack the drug and gang-related problem. This coordinated effort successfully identified members of street level gangs selling drugs, and resulted in the arrests of gang members, from South Miami to Plantation, Fla.
As a result of this proactive investigation, 36 defendants were indicted on a myriad of federal and state violations, ranging from robbery and burglary to possession and distribution of marijuana and crack cocaine, and the illegal possession of weapons. Thirteen significant gang members are being prosecuted federally, where they face substantial prison time without the possibility of parole. Twenty-three are being prosecuted by the Miami Dade State Attorney's Office, where they also face serious potential jail time.
In addition to the 36 indicted and others charged criminally, ICE special agents arrested several gang members and associates who were found to be in violation of U.S. immigration law. These individuals were processed for removal from the United States.
"This enforcement action was part of ICE's national initiative to partner with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to target the significant public safety threat posed by transnational street gangs," said Anthony Mangione, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Miami. "We are using all of our authority and expertise to tackle the gang problem in South Florida, and hope that the community will feel safer knowing that we have arrested violent street gang members that were terrorizing our neighborhoods."
Acting U. S. Attorney Jeffrey H. Sloman stated, "Gang violence is not self-contained. It is not limited to one gang member killing another or killing a rival. Too frequently, we hear about innocent victims who are killed in the cross-fire of rival gangs and street level drug traffickers. We must end this cycle of violence. The U.S. Attorney's Office will continue to work with our federal and local law enforcement partners, and with community-based gang resistance organizations, to break the cycle of gang and drug violence that plagues our streets."
Katherine Fernandez Rundle, State Attorney for Miami-Dade County, said, "Gangs bring drug crime and the potential of deadly violence to every neighborhood they decide to invade and jeopardize. As this coordinated state, federal and local anti-gang effort shows, law enforcement in Miami-Dade County will not allow gangs to endanger the safety of our citizens. The message to every gang member is clear: we know who you are; we are investigating you as we speak; and we are all coming to get you."
North Miami Beach Police Chief Rafael P. Hernandez, Jr., added, "We are committed to eradicating the scourge of gangs in our communities. Gangs are simply not welcome in our city. We have a zero tolerance for criminals. The assistance provided to us by all the agencies in this operation has made South Florida a safer place to live by removing gang members, whose only business is crime, from our streets."
Miami-Dade Police Director Robert Parker stated, "As violence spreads and affects different communities throughout the county, law enforcement agencies will not be hindered by jurisdictional boundaries. Instead, we will join forces, and together further our commitment to public safety."
The investigation was conducted by the Violent Gang Task Force led by ICE's Office of Investigations in Miami, the North Miami Beach Police Department, and the Miami-Dade Police Department. ICE's Special Response Teams (SRT) in Miami, Tampa and Puerto Rico assisted in the two-day operation with the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Florida Department of Law Enforcement the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Customs and Border Protection (CBP) - Air and Marine Unit, the City of Aventura Police Department, and the Miami-Dade Department of Corrections.
The Miami ICE Violent Gang Task Force (VGTF) has made significant accomplishments in the last two years to include the disruption and dismantling of numerous gang and drug trafficking organizations of Uptown, SUR-13, BTP - Behind the Plaza Boyz, MS-13, 18th Street, Deuce 7, Top 6 and 21 Jump. Additionally, the VGTF had 16 active investigations in FY 08 and 22 in FY 09 that netted a total of 993 arrests. These investigations resulted in the seizure of 49 weapons, 2.55 kg of cocaine, .48 kg of heroin, 14.14 kg of marijuana and 2,019 pills of ecstasy.
ICE's Violent Gang Task Force consists of several federal, state and local law enforcement agencies including the ATF, DEA, U.S. Attorney's Office, Florida State Attorney's Office, Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), Miami Dade Police Department, North Miami Beach Police Department, Aventura Police Department, Florida Dept. of Probation, and the Miami Dade Corrections Department.