More than 140 gang members are facing federal charges after a multi-agency operation netted dozens of arrests over the last 75 days, the Office of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of California announced Wednesday.
Members of the 400-member “Diablos Enterprise” gang of Escondido, California, featured prominently in the arrests, with 16 of their members charged with violating federal drug laws.
“This is an unusually large number of gang members arrested in a very short period of time,” said Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Southern California Alana W. Robinson said in a press release:
The sheer number of arrests illustrates that gangs are a significant problem in this county. But it also underscores our enormous commitment to use every tool we have to attack this problem and restore communities to families who should not have to live in fear in their own homes.
Drugs of all description, cash, and dozens of high-powered firearms were seized along with the gangsters themselves in the cooperative efforts by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), and the local Escondido Police Department, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, and North County Regional Gang Task Force.
Defendants arrested by local authorities have been referred up for federal prosecution, which often yields stiffer sentencing, based on their gang connections by the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office.
San Diego County Chief Deputy District Attorney Summer Stephan, head of that office’s Gangs Division, explained:
When members of criminal street gangs are arrested during joint operations, the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office reviews their criminal histories and coordinates with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to determine where a defendant would be most appropriately prosecuted … In essence, we collaborate to get the most effective bang for our prosecutorial buck and make sure justice is served, whether that happens on the state or federal side.
Cracking down on gangs and trans-national criminal organizations has featured prominently in recent rhetoric by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, promising “zero tolerence” for gang violence. The law enforcement officials behind Wednesday’s announcement reflected a similar ethos.
FBI Special Agent in Charge Eric Birnbaum said in the press release, “Dismantling violent gangs is a continuing priority for the FBI. We share an unwavering commitment with our law enforcement partners to address the dangerous threat facing our communities today. The impact of our recent gang cases clearly demonstrates our focus and determination to strike at gang related enterprises and to eliminate the terror these groups inflict on our neighborhoods.”