Washington, DC - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recognizes that violent transnational criminal street gangs represent a threat to public safety in neighborhoods and communities across the U.S.
In 2005, under the auspices of the national gang enforcement initiative Operation Community Shield (OCS), ICE established itself as the lead federal agency in the investigation of transnational criminal street gangs such as Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13).
Operation Community Shield does the following:
- Works with federal, state and local law enforcement partners, in the U.S. and abroad, to develop a comprehensive and integrated approach to conducting criminal investigations and other law enforcement operations against gangs.
- Identifies violent street gangs and develops intelligence on their membership, associates, criminal activities and international movements.
- Deters, disrupts and dismantles gang operations by tracing and seizing cash, weapons and other assets derived from criminal activities.
- Seeks prosecution and/or removal of alien gang members from the United States.
- Works closely with our attaché offices worldwide and foreign law enforcement counterparts in gathering intelligence, sharing information and conducting coordinated enforcement operations.
ICE's unique dual federal authorities, both criminal and administrative, have made the agency a leader in criminal investigations targeting transnational street gangs, prison gangs and outlaw motorcycle gangs that pose a threat to the public safety and national security.
Since the launch of OCS, ICE and its partners have arrested more than 15,000 gang members and associates, representing more than 1,000 different gangs.
These apprehensions include more than 6,000 criminal arrests and nearly 9,000 administrative immigration arrests. Of these, 190 arrests were of gang leaders, and nearly 6,000 of the arrested suspects had violent criminal histories. Through this initiative, ICE has also seized more than 876 firearms.
Major Enforcement Actions
Some major Operation Community Shield enforcement actions include:
September 30, 2009 (Salt Lake City, Provo, Ogden and St. George, Utah): A total of 76 gang members and gang associates from across the state, including many with serious criminal histories, were arrested in an OCS operation. A 34-year-old Honduran national with ties to the Surenos 13 street gang was federally charged. This individual had previously been deported five times. Arrestees during this operation were from Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, Argentina, Peru, Cuba and Vietnam.
September 22, 2009 (Los Angeles): Forty-five members and associates of the Avenues street gang in Northeast Los Angeles were arrested on federal criminal charges. They were named in a wide-ranging federal racketeering indictment that alleged a host of crimes, including the August 2008 murder of Los Angeles sheriff's deputy Juan Escalante. Additionally, five people were arrested on state criminal charges and parole violations, and agents seized 33 firearms.
August 7, 2009 (Las Vegas and Mesquite, Nev.): A total of 29 gang members and gang associates were taken into custody following a three-day multi-agency gang enforcement operation. Most of the individuals arrested had criminal histories, including prior convictions for drug trafficking, weapons possession, kidnapping with a deadly weapon, home invasion, battery with a deadly weapon, coercing children with intent to engage in sexual conduct, grand larceny and theft. Those arrested were from El Salvador, Afghanistan, Mexico and the Bahamas.
July 31, 2009 (Miami): More than 50 members and associates of violent street gangs in South Florida were arrested in a two-day gang enforcement operation. ICE's Miami Violent Gang Task Force, along with gang detectives from various local law enforcement agencies initiated an investigation into a number of criminal street gangs in the South Fla. area. In the wake of the shooting death of City of Miami police detective James Walker by gang members, ICE joined forces with local law enforcement agencies to target street gang members trafficking narcotics and operating in North Miami Beach. As a result, 36 defendants were indicted on myriad federal and state violations, ranging from robbery and burglary to possession and distribution of marijuana and crack cocaine, as well as the illegal possession of weapons.
July 23, 2009 (Chicago, Addison, Bensenville, Blue Island, Carpentersville and Hanover Park, Ill.): Nineteen people were arrested during a two-day local gang enforcement operation targeting illegal aliens with ties to violent street gangs in the Chicago area. All had criminal histories. Some of their convictions and arrests included unlawfully using a weapon, criminal sexual abuse, aggravated battery, aggravated discharge of a firearm, drug possession, theft, and mob action. Additionally, ICE agents assisted local law enforcement with seizing marijuana plants discovered growing at a gang member's residence.
June 30, 2009 (Houston, Beaumont and Corpus Christi, Texas): A total of 116 gang members and associates were arrested following a five-day gang enforcement operation. The gang members taken into custody during the enforcement action are linked to at least 14 street gangs, including MS-13, Surenos Trece, Aryan Brotherhood, Latin Kings, La Raza13, Black Disciples, Houstone, Tango Blast, Bloods and Crips. Three of those arrested possessed firearms at the time of their arrest, which included an assault rifle, a shotgun and a handgun.
June 24, 2009 (Newark, N.J.): Forty-six gang members and associates were arrested as a result of a statewide public safety initiative. Each of those arrested were targeted for their membership, participation or association with violent street gangs, including MS-13, Surenos 13, DDP, Trinitarios, Gran Familia Mexicana, Los Pitufos and Bloods. Those arrested during this gang enforcement operation were from El Salvador, Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Philippines, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic.
Gang Intelligence Gathering and Sharing
Under Operation Community Shield, ICE receives thousands of names of known and suspected gang members from federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, as well as foreign governments. This information is routinely compared with ICE's immigration and customs databases to identify and prioritize gang suspects who may be subject to ICE's legal jurisdiction.
ICE's Law Enforcement Support Center (LESC) in Vt. plays a central role in this effort. Data on gang suspects is compared against immigration databases to determine whether these individuals are subject to ICE's federal immigration authorities. This data is then shared with field offices and law enforcement partners to compile target lists.