ICE, Others Announce Major Gang CrackdownJanuary 27, 2010 - 2:01 PM | by: Mike Levine
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have launched what they call “the largest operation of its kind in our agency’s history,” rounding up more than 470 gang members, gang associates and others across the country in one week.
The crackdown, dubbed Project Big Freeze, had a “particular focus” on “transnational gangs” and their associates inside the United States illegally, ICE chief John Morton told reporters at a press conference on Tuesday.
Listen to Morton talk more about that at Tuesday’s press conference:
Transnational gangs are often involved in drug, weapons and even human smuggling, and like any gang they “have a propensity toward violence,” ICE said in a statement.
Nearly half of those arrested in Project Big Freeze are members or associates of major gangs based in Mexico, South America or Asia.
In addition, of the 476 arrested more than 360 are foreign nationals who now face deportation, but some of them may be prosecuted inside the United States first, according to ICE.
Project Big Freeze was “months” in the making, with a “surge” of arrests last week in 83 cities across the country, according to Morton.
At Tuesday’s press conference, Morton was joined by Dallas Police Assistant Chief Charles Cato and Barry Fritz, chief of police in Richmond, Minn., just outside Minneapolis.
“This operation worked, and worked well, because it involved the direct participation of local law enforcement,” Morton said, adding that federal agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Administration and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also played an integral role.
“While Richfield is not a hotbed of transnational gangs, we certainly have them in the [Minneapolis] metro area,” which creates gang activity in his community, Fritz said.
In fact, half of the criminal activity his officers encounter is related to transnational gangs, including a recent drive-by shooting in Richfield, according to Fritz.
Noting the financial stresses being felt by police departments across the country, Fritz said that if it weren’t for ICE “a local department like us simply wouldn’t have” the ability to adequately combat transnational gang activity.
Specifically, he said, ICE is a “force multiplier” with the legal ability to operate in nearby jurisdictions, where his department does not have authority.
As for Cato, he described Dallas as a “transnational hub for narcotics” coming into the United States from South America, and he said operations like Project Big Freeze have been “an integral part” of reducing related violence.
In 2004, his city had 248 homicides, 85 percent of which had a “nexus” to gangs, drugs or guns, according to Cato. Last year, Dallas counted 166 homicides, the lowest level since 1967, when Dallas had half the population it has now, Cato said.
Listen to Cato talk more about the impact of operations like Project Big Freeze on violent criminals: