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Nearly 300 Los Angeles area gang members and associates arrested in nationwide crackdown

October 15, 2009 | 11:53 am

Nearly 300 gang members and associates across the Los Angeles area were arrested as part of a larger nationwide crackdown that targeted gangs involved in cross-border smuggling of people and weapons, drug trafficking, identity theft and other crimes, federal officials said today.

The arrests were among 1,785 made around the country as part of Operation Community Shield, a sixth-month investigation of transnational gangs that ended Sept 30, said Virginia Kice, spokesperson for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Among those arrested were Elmer Fredy Hernandez-Ayala, 29, an El Salvadoran national and member of the 18th Street gang, for reentry after deportation, and nine members and associates of Barrio Evil 13, a Bell Gardens street gang, for drug trafficking and weapons charges, Kice said.

“The goal of Community Shield isn’t to just take individual gang members off the streets, but to disrupt the cycle of crime and dismantle the entire gang,” Kice said.

Of the 293 arrests made in the Los Angeles area, 185 were on criminal charges, Kice said. The remaining arrests were for immigration violations, and federal authorities are working to deport the foreign nationals from the country, Kice said.

Many of those arrested were previously in custody, she said.

Kice said that many transnational street gangs have significant numbers of foreign-born members, and that federal officials, along with state and local law enforcement, have worked on identifying gang members who were previously deported and prosecuting them for felony immigration violation.

“This is a very, very effective way to take gang members previously off the street,” she said. Using both criminal arrest authority and prosecuting them for immigration violations is a “one-two punch,” she said.

The majority of arrests occurred in Los Angeles County and the Inland Empire, Kice said. In Los Angeles County, 147 were arrested, compared to 135 in the Inland Empire, nine in Orange County and two in Ventura County.

-- My-Thuan Tran

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