The Homeland Security Department has arrested more than 600 suspected gang members in a monthlong national crackdown on street gangs.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents made the arrests in 179 cities over the last month. ICE says nearly three-quarters of the suspected gang members belong to the Surenos or Sur 13 street gang. The name loosely translates to southerners.
The investigation known as Project Southbound ran from March 12 to April 13. In addition to the 638 gang members and associates, agents also arrested 119 other individuals on federal and/or state criminal violations and administrative immigration violations, for a total of 757 arrests.
"Project Southbound is the largest-ever ICE operation targeting the Sureños gang," said ICE Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Thomas S. Winkowski. "This gang now has more than 30,000 members in the United States and its numbers are growing. Targeting transnational gangs like the Sureños is a top priority for ICE and we will continue to disrupt and dismantle the violence and criminal activities that they inflict upon our neighborhoods."
Of the arrests, 525 were charged with criminal offenses; 113 were arrested administratively for immigration violations; 414 had violent criminal histories, including seven individuals wanted for murder and five wanted for rape or sexual assault; and 256 were foreign nationals.
The arrests included 39 individuals in the Bay Area and northern California who now face federal or state prosecution for violations ranging from racketeering and murder to weapons and drug offenses.
Among those arrested in northern California were a 46-year-old woman and her 21-year-old son who were detained on state narcotics and firearms charges following the execution of search warrants at properties owned by a known Sureños gang associate and previously deported aggravated felon.
Federal officials said the woman is believed to have been supplying large quantities of high-quality, commercially-grown marijuana to gang members.
Special agents and local authorities seized more than 4,600 marijuana plants, 25 pounds of processed marijuana, an AR-15 rifle, a stolen Glock handgun, four diesel generators, four vehicles, and more than $85,000 in cash. The case has now been referred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California for possible federal prosecution.