A six-week operation led by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations has led to the arrests of nearly 1,000 gang members and associates from 239 different gangs in 282 cities across the country, including 37 in New Jersey.

(Anton Prado Photography, ThinkStock)
(Anton Prado Photography, ThinkStock)

The operation, dubbed Project Wildfire, targeted criminal gangs and others associated with transnational criminal activity.

"Criminal gangs inflict violence and fear upon our communities, and without the attention of law enforcement, these groups can spread like a cancer," ICE Director Sarah Saldaña said in a press release Wednesday. "That's why ICE works with law enforcement partners around the country to stamp out gang activity wherever it takes place."

Led by the HSI National Gang Unit, Project Wildfire took place from Feb. 23 to March 31.  Special agents worked with 215 state, local and federal law enforcement partners, including ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations to apprehend individuals from various gangs.

Most of those arrested were U.S. citizens, but 199 foreign nationals were also arrested from 18 countries in South and Central America, Asia, Africa, Europe and the Carribean.  Of those arrested, 976 were gang members and associates, 231 others were arrested on federal and/or state violations and administrative immigration violations, for a total of 1,207 arrests.  Of the 1,207 arrested, 1,057 were males and 150 were females.

Of the 976 gang members or associates arrested:

  • 913 were charged with criminal offenses;
  • 63 were arrested administratively for immigration violations;
  • 650 had violent criminal histories;
  • 199 were foreign nationals, of which 151 were gang members and gang associates.

The majority of those arrested were affiliated with the Sureños, Norteños, Bloods, Crips, Puerto Rican-based gangs and several prison-based gangs.  Enforcement actions included:

  • In New Jersey, HSI special agents and task force officers arrested 37 known or suspected gang members and associates from the Bloods, Latin Kings, and MS-13.
  • In Puerto Rico and central Florida, 46 members of the Zorrilla criminal organization were arrested for various charges of manufacturing and distributing narcotics, money laundering and other related criminal activity.
  • In Lubbock, Texas, HSI special agents and task force officers arrested 122 known or suspected gang members and associates from the Bloods, Crips ·    Rolling 60s, Mexican Mafia, Sureños, West Texas, Raza Unida, Aryan Brotherhood, White Aryan Resistance, West Side, Gangster Disciples, Peckerwood, Texas Syndicate and West Texas Tango.
  • In the Detroit area, HSI special agents and task force officers arrested 89 gang members and associates with ties to gangs such as the Latin Counts, Folk Nation, Sureños and Atherton Terrace.
  • In the Chicago area, HSI special agents arrested 30 gang members and affiliates with ties to the Sureños 13, Latin Kings, La Raza, Conservative Vice Lords, Gangster Disciples, 4 Corner Hustlers, Maniac Latin Disciples and the Vice Lords.
  • In California's Imperial Valley, HSI special agents arrested 28 individuals, including 10 documented gang members of the Brole, North Side Centro, West Side Centro, South Side Centro and Pilgrim Street gangs.

Agents seized 82 firearms, 5.2 kilograms of methamphetamine, 7.8 kilograms of marijuana, 5.6 kilograms of cocaine, 1.5 kilograms of heroin, $379,399 in U.S. currency, counterfeit merchandise worth $547,534 and five vehicles.

The operation was part of HSI's Operation Community Shield, a global initiative, where HSI collaborates with federal, state and local law enforcement partners to combat the growth and proliferation of transnational criminal street gangs, prison gangs and outlaw motorcycle gangs in the United States and abroad.  Since its inception in February 2005, more than 36,000 street gang members and associates linked to 2,600 different gangs have been arrested. At least 46 percent of those arrested had a violent criminal history.  More than 490 were gang leaders and more than 4,700 were MS-13 gang members and associates.

To report suspicious activity, call ICE's 24-hour toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or visit www.ice.gov.


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