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January 7, 2016San Juan, PR, United StatesTransnational Gangs

ICE HSI San Juan Public Safety Group anti-gang operation reduces homicides by nearly 45 percent

Territorial gangs are found in all societies throughout the world, and they represent a public safety threat wherever they are located. Criminal gang activity involves nearly every type of egregious crime, from drug and firearms trafficking to homicide, armed robbery, carjacking and home invasion.

With drug trafficking and gang-related homicides on the increase on the island of Puerto Rico, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) San Juan Public Safety Group (PSG) took action. The group deployed their Resilience Strike Team, which partnered with state and local law enforcement agencies from June 1, 2014 to May 31, 2015, to crack down on gangs and dismantle violent criminal organizations.

Law enforcement agents and officers made criminals arrests, resulting in 414 successful prosecutions. Asset forfeitures and seizures amounted to more than 171 firearms, 8,468 rounds of ammunition, 191 pounds of marijuana, 44 pounds of cocaine, $593,460 in U.S. currency, five pounds of heroin and significant amounts of crack cocaine, as well as illegally-obtained prescription drugs and drug paraphernalia.

Puerto Rican Police reported homicides remained at nearly 45 percent below the record high murder rate in Puerto Rico during FY14 and FY15.

“The Public Safety Group is highly-motivated, professional and committed,” said Angel M. Melendez, special agent in charge at HSI Puerto Rico. “The Resilience Strike Team is dedicated to halting domestic gun and violent crime and protecting our nation from transnational threats from both at home and abroad. The work of the San Juan Public Safety Group was significant contributing factor in keeping the homicide rate in check.” 

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico and the government of Puerto Rico commended the initiative and enforcement actions.  

Meanwhile, the San Juan Public Safety Group also launched a new partnership program with the Puerto Rico Police Department in which they deputized and trained 18 police officers in their respective precincts to assist HSI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the U.S. Attorney's Office in the investigation of federal firearms violations.

Additionally, the public safety members formed specialized teams, such as the HSI-San Juan Special Response Team and the HSI-San Juan Rapid Response Team.  HSI-San Juan Defensive Tactics instructors also helped train U.S. international law enforcement partners at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia.

The HSI Public Safety Groups throughout the United States combat the growth of transnational street gangs and are under the auspices of ICE’s National Gang Unit's Operation Community Shield.