A five-week operation run by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents led to the arrests of 1,133 suspects involved in criminal activities, including attempted murder and drug trafficking, the agency reported Monday.
“This operation is the latest example of ICE’s ongoing efforts, begun more than a decade ago under Operation Community Shield, to target violent gang members and their associates, to eradicate the violence they inflict upon our communities and to stop the cash flow to transnational organized crime groups operating overseas,” ICE Director Sarah R. Saldaña said in a news release.
Conducted in cooperation with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, ICE’s latest operation zeroed in on Atlanta; El Paso, Texas; Houston; Los Angeles; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and San Francisco. Most of the people arrested had links to well-known gangs such as the Bloods, MS-13, Sureños and Norteños. More than 900 of those arrested were suspected of participating in transnational gangs.
Human smuggling, racketeering and sex trafficking were among the illegal activities listed by ICE. Authorities seized 150 firearms, more than 20 kilograms of drugs and over $70,000 during the course of the operation that began Feb. 15.
While many of the gangs are transnational, most of the suspects arrested under Project Shadowfire were American citizens. The 239 foreign nationals who were detained hailed from 13 different countries, including China, Jamaica, Mexico, the Philippines and Spain, Reuters reported. A total of 1,001 people were charged with criminal offenses, while 132 were expected to face charges related to immigration violation.
Operation Community Shield was launched in February 2005, and it has led to more than 40,000 gang-related arrests and the seizures of over 8,000 firearms. Project Shadowfire was carried out under Operation Community Shield, the latest in a series of operations with names that sound like the titles of action movies, such as Project Southbond in 2014, Project Nefarious in 2012 and Southern Tempest in 2011.