Southland street gang members arrested
By City News Service

Whittier Daily News, CA
Aug 2 2005

- Authorities arrested 26 Southland gang members as part of a two-week
nationwide immigration enforcement operation targeting violent street
gangs, federal officials announced Monday. Under "Operation Community
Shield,' an ongoing anti-gang initiative, 582 people were arrested
nationwide between July 16 and 28, according to U.S. Immigration and
Customs Enforcement.

Twenty-five of the Southland gang members arrested were in the country
illegally, according to ICE.

Most of the arrests took place when agents raided various Southland
locations, including Los Angeles, Long Beach, Glendale, Gardena and
Bellflower. Another Southland gang member was arrested in Atlanta,
and three arrests occurred when suspects were released from state
prisons in San Bernardino County.

"Several of the suspects arrested here in Los Angeles are facing
federal criminal charges,' Steven Lovett of ICE's Long Beach office
told KCAL9. "Several more may have charges filed on them. The remainder
will go into deportation proceedings and eventually probably be
deported from the United States back to their home countries.'

Launched by ICE in January, Operation Community Shield is a national
law enforcement initiative targeting dozens of violent gangs with
foreign-born members most notably the Mara Salvatrucha gang, known
as MS-13.

The gang, formed in Los Angeles, is believed to have up to 50,000
members in this country and in Mexico and other Latin America
countries.

Since Operation Community Shield began, 1,050 suspects have been
arrested nationwide.

"Street gangs in America have grown and expanded their influence to an
alarming level, marked by increased violence and criminal activity,'
said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

"These gangs pose a severe threat to public safety and this growth must
not go unchallenged,' Chertoff said. "We will continue to coordinate
our efforts closely with our law enforcement partners nationally
and use our collective authorities to help rid our communities of
this malignancy.'

Six of those arrested in the latest crackdown are facing felony
charges for re-entering the United States after having previously
been deported, according to ICE.

Of the six, five were arrested in the Los Angeles area. They are:
Sergio Venegas-Davalos, 27, of Mexico; Edgar Rene Barrera, 27, of
Guatemala; Walter Adolfo Gonzalez Velasquez, 33, of Guatemala; Roberto
Garcia Lopez, 24, of Mexico; and Juan Jaquez Gonzalez, 40, of Mexico.

The sixth - Jose Jerso Cordova Arias, 31, of Mexico - was arrested in
Atlanta by ICE agents acting on information placed into a nationwide
database by agents in Los Angeles.

The remaining 20 Southland arrestees were placed in formal immigration-
removal proceedings, and three of those have been deported.

Those arrested include foreign nationals from five countries: 17 from
Mexico, four from Guatemala, two from El Salvador, two from Armenia,
and one from Laos.

"We have a message for the violent street gang members in America:
Stopping your violence and criminal activities is high on our list
of ICE's priorities,' said Loraine Brown, special agent-in-charge
for ICE investigations in Los Angeles.

"And we're backing up our resolve with results, here in Los Angeles
and around the country,' Brown said.

The two-week enforcement effort included personnel from 40 ICE offices
and more than 84 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

Involved were 384 ICE agents and officers, 247 state and local officers
and 92 agents from the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and
the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The initial target of Operation Community Shield was the MS-13 gang,
one of the largest and most violent in the country, according to ICE.

In February, an ICE operation in six major U.S. cities resulted in
the arrests of 103 members of MS-13. During the following months,
ICE expanded the effort against MS-13 to other cities.

In May, ICE expanded Operation Community Shield to include all criminal
street gangs and prison gangs with foreign-born members.