MONTEREY, Calif. - Eight Mexican nationals with ties to violent street gangs in Monterey County are facing state criminal charges or deportation this morning following a day-long enforcement operation involving U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and several local law enforcement agencies.
Yesterday's arrests were made as part of an ongoing initiative by ICE's National Gang Unit called Operation Community Shield. As part of the initiative, ICE partners with other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies across the country to target the significant public safety threat posed by transnational street gangs.
ICE received substantial assistance with the operation from the Monterey County Sheriff's Department, the Seaside and Salinas police departments, and the Monterey County Adult Probation Department.
"This operation shows our collective resolve to attack and dismantle the street gangs that are threatening our neighborhoods," said Joseph Vincent, assistant special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations that oversees the agency's operations in Monterey County. "ICE will continue to use its unique immigration and customs authorities to target these organizations and combat the violence and intimidation they use to hold our communities hostage to fear."
The gang members taken into custody during the enforcement action are linked to at least four street gangs, including Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13). One of those arrested is facing prosecution on state drug charges. The remaining individuals were arrested on administrative immigration violations and will be placed in removal proceedings. They will be held in ICE custody and scheduled for a deportation hearing before an immigration judge.
Those arrested during the operation include a 30-year-old Mexican man with an outstanding deportation order whose criminal record includes prior convictions for street terrorism and exhibiting a deadly weapon. Also taken into custody during the operation was a 21-year-old Mexican man previously convicted of carrying an unregistered loaded firearm in a vehicle.
The gang arrests occurred in the communities of Salinas and Seaside, Calif. In addition to the arrests, authorities also recovered marijuana plants and evidence of cultivation.
"The Monterey County Sheriff's Office is extremely supportive of ICE's effort to combat crime in Monterey County by targeting members of violent street gangs who are in the county illegally," said Sheriff Mike Kanalakis.
"The Salinas Police Department is committed to working with other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to target the gangs and gang members operating in this area," said Manny Perrien, deputy chief of the Salinas Police Department. "Gang-related violence and crime is a public safety issue that puts the welfare of our entire community at risk."
Since Operation Community Shield began in February 2005, ICE agents nationwide have arrested more than 13,000 gang members and associates linked to more than 900 different gangs. More than 150 of those arrested were gang leaders.
The National Gang Unit at ICE identifies violent street gangs and develops intelligence on their membership, associates, criminal activities and international movements to deter, disrupt and dismantle gang operations by tracing and seizing cash, weapons and other assets derived from criminal activities.
Through Operation Community Shield, the federal government uses its powerful immigration and customs authorities in a coordinated, national campaign against criminal street gangs in the United States. Transnational street gangs have significant numbers of foreign-born members and are frequently involved in human and contraband smuggling, immigration violations and other crimes with a connection to the border.
To report suspicious activity, call ICE's 24-hour toll-free hotline at: 1-866-347-2423 or visit www.ice.gov.
Editor's Note: Digital still photos taken by ICE during the anti-gang enforcement operation are available. To receive those photos, contact the ICE Office of Public Affairs at (949) 360-3096.