An operation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents across the United States has landed 976 gang members and associates with ties to transnational criminal gangs have been arrested in an operation named Project Wildfire. The arrests took place in 282 cities across the U.S. during a six-week period. The targets of the sweep were people affiliated with transnational criminal gangs or other transnational criminal activities.
“Criminal gangs inflict violence and fear upon our communities, and without the attention of law enforcement, these groups can spread like a cancer,” said ICE Director Sarah R. Saldaña in a press release obtained by Breitbart Texas. “That’s why ICE works with law enforcement partners around the country to stamp out gang activity wherever it takes place.”
The Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) National Gang Unit led Project Wildfire in a nationwide operation that began on Feb. 23 and ended on March 31. The unit worked with 215 state, local and federal law enforcement partners. Those included ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operation (ERO) team.
Most of those arrested were U.S. citizens but nearly twenty percent came from eighteen countries in South and Central America, Asia, Africa, Europe and the Caribbean. A total of 1,207 people were arrested. 976 were gang members and others associated with the gangs. 231 were arrested on other federal and state related criminal violations or administrative violations. Male offenders made up 1,057 of the total arrested while the other 150 were female.
913 of those arrested were charged with criminal offenses while another 63 were arrested on administrative immigration violations. Nineteen of those arrested were wanted on active warrants for murder, fifteen for rape or sexual assault. A total of 650 had violent criminal histories. 199 of those arrested were foreign nationals including 151 who were gang members and gang associates.
In Lubbock, Texas, HIS and other law enforcement officers arrested 122 known or suspected gang members, according to KCBD TV. Those arrested were allegedly members of Bloods, Crips Rollin 60s, Mexican Mafia, Sureños, West Texas, Raza Unida, Aryan Brotherhood, White Aryan Resistance, West Side, Gangster Disciples, Peckerwood, Texas Syndicate and West Texas Tango.
Houston saw sixty arrests while neighboring Montgomery County saw another 24 people arrested, according to the Houston Chronicle. The arrests in Montgomery county were conducted by a newly activated gang task force.
The Chronicle reported:
Using a Texas gang computer database, Montgomery County investigators were able to identify more than 100 suspected gang members operating inside their county, authorities said. “With that database, we were able to solve a bunch of crimes by acting on 43 outstanding arrest warrants,” added Montgomery County sheriff’s spokesman Brady Fitzgerald.
Before the task force was created, the detectives alleged that Houston gang crews had committed multiple “take over” or “crash and grab” robberies within a few months.
A total of 334 arrests were made across Texas. Other cities involved include the Dallas area with 162 people arrested, San Antonio with 20 and El Paso with 53.
In addition to the arrests, agents seized 5.2 kilograms of methamphetamines, 5.6 kilograms of cocaine, 7.8 kilograms of marijuana, 1.5 kilograms of heroin, 82 firearms, about a half million in counterfeit merchandise and $379,000 in cash.