May 12 (UPI) — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement concluded a six-week nationwide operation targeting gangs that made 1,378 arrests, the agency announced Thursday.
Of the arrests that ended Saturday, 1,095 were confirmed as gang members and affiliates, including 137 with the Bloods, 118 with the Sureños, 104 with MS-13 and 104 with the Crips, ICE said. The remaining 283 claimed no gang affiliation but were arrested on criminal or administrative charges.
“Gangs threaten the safety of our communities, not just in major metropolitan areas, but in our suburbs and rural areas, too,” ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan said Thursday. “Gang-related violence and criminal activity present an ongoing challenge for law enforcement everywhere.”
State, local and federal law enforcement partners participated in the operation led by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations that started March 26.
Operation Community Shield began in 2005 “to target violent gang members and their associates, eradicate the violence they inflict upon our communities and stop the cash flow to transnational organized crime groups,” according to an ICE release. HSI special agents, working in conjunction with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, have made more than 47,000 gang-related arrests.
But since Donald Trump became president in January, immigration agents have stepped up their efforts.
“The goal at end of day is to arrest, prosecute, imprison, and deport and remove transnational gang members as well as to suppress violence and prosecute criminal enterprises,” Derek Benner, deputy executive associate director of Homeland Security investigations, said at a news conference.
The arrests included 1,098 on federal and/or state criminal charges, with 21 arrested on murder related charges and seven for rape and sexual assault charges. The remaining 280 were arrested on administrative immigration violations.
Of the arrests, 933 were U.S. citizens and 445 were foreign nationals from 21 countries in South and Central America, Asia, Africa, Europe and the Caribbean.
Three who were arrested were part of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — DACA. Those granted DACA and found to pose a threat to national security or public safety may have their deferred action terminated at any time, and the Department of Homeland Security may seek to deport them. Since DACA began in 2012, DHS has terminated the status for approximately 1,500 individuals due to criminality or gang affiliation concerns.
Ten arrested crossed the border as unaccompanied minors, including nine as gang members.
The greatest numbers arrested were in Houston, New York, Atlanta and Newark, N.J. areas.
Agents seized $491,763 in U.S. currency, more than 200 firearms, and such narcotics as cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, fentanyl and marijuana.