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Operation Community Shield

Targeting Violent Transnational Street Gangs

Community Shield logo


In February 2005, ICE began Operation Community Shield, a national law enforcement initiative that targets violent transnational street gangs through the use of ICE's broad law enforcement powers, including the unique and powerful authority to remove (deport) criminal aliens, including illegal aliens and legal permanent resident aliens.

Under Operation Community Shield, ICE:

  • Partners with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, in the United States and abroad, to develop a comprehensive and integrated approach in conducting criminal investigations and other law enforcement operations against violent street gangs and others who pose a threat to public safety.
  • Identifies violent street gangs and develops intelligence on their membership, associates, criminal activities and international movements.
  • Deters, disrupts and dismantles gang operations by tracing and seizing cash, weapons and other assets derived from criminal activities.
  • Seeks prosecution and/or removal of alien gang members from the United States .
  • Works closely with our attaché offices throughout Latin America and foreign law enforcement counterparts in gathering intelligence, sharing information and conducting coordinated enforcement operations.
  • Conducts outreach efforts to increase public awareness about the fight against violent street gangs.

Initially, the focus of ICE's efforts were directed toward the Mara Salvatrucha organization, commonly referred to as MS-13, one of the most violent and rapidly growing transnational street gangs. In May 2005, ICE expanded Operation Community Shield to include all transnational criminal street gangs and prison gangs.


Since inception, ICE agents across 100 field offices, working in conjunction with hundreds of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies nationwide, have arrested a total of 7,655 street gang members and associates, representing over 700 different gangs.

These apprehensions include 2,444 criminal arrests and 5,211 administrative immigration arrests. One hundred-seven of those arrested were gang leaders. More than 2,555 of the arrested suspects had violent criminal histories. Through this initiative, ICE has also seized and removed from the streets 287 firearms.

In all, Operation Community Shield arrests are up 533 percent since fiscal year 2005 and 134 percent over fiscal year 2006.

Major Enforcement Actions:

September 24, 2007 (Twin Cities metropolitan area and Albany , Willmar and Worthington , Minn. ): 34 aliens with ties to violent street gangs were arrested during a weeklong operation. All those arrested were targeted for their affiliations with violent street gangs such as Sureño-13, Vatos Locos, Rough Tough Somali Crips, and the Mexican Mafia, among others. Five of those apprehended were arrested on state criminal charges. Thirty of those arrested are illegal aliens and four are U.S. permanent residents whose previous criminal convictions render them eligible for deportation. Nine of the illegal aliens have been presented to the U.S. Attorney's Office for federal prosecution for re-entering the United States after having already been deported, which is a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison. ICE will process the remainder for deportation. Those arrested during this operation are from Mexico , Nicaragua , El Salvador and Somalia .

September 2, 2007 ( Oklahoma City ): 65 people were arrested during a seven-day local enforcement action targeting violent street gang members. Those arrested include members of the following Oklahoma City street gangs: Barrio Gran Mexicanos, Gran Barrio Central, Juarito Sureno 14, LA 36, Los Centrales, Murdertown, South Side Locos and Sureno 13. Those arrested originate from the following countries: Costa Rica , El Salvador , Honduras , Iraq and Mexico . Three U.S. citizens were also arrested during this operation by local law enforcement agencies. Forty-two of those arrested are known members of local street gangs; 15 had active warrants for their arrest, or were arrested on state charges. Three aliens who did not have previous criminal convictions have already been voluntarily returned to Mexico . Some of the crimes associated with those arrested during this local operation include: 1st degree rape, burglary, drug trafficking and various drug-related convictions, sexual battery, lewd acts with a child, assaulting a police office, harboring a fugitive, intentionally discharging a firearm, and illegally possessing a firearm.

August 30, 2007 ( Chelsea , East Boston, Everett , Lynn , Revere and Somerville , Mass. ): 36 violent street gang members and associates were arrested during a three-day long operation. Those arrested are members and associates of the violent street gang Mara-Salvatrucha (MS-13). They come from El Salvador , Colombia , Guatemala , Honduras and Nicaragua . Of the 36 arrested, 27 entered the United States without inspection, 4 are Lawful Permanent Residents with criminal convictions that make them subject to removal from the U.S, 2 have re-entered the United States after having been deported, 2 individuals have final orders of removal from an immigration judge, and one individual was arrested on a state warrant. In addition to the arrests, the action has resulted in the seizure of a variety of machetes, knives, switchblades and a small quantity of cocaine. The criminal records of those arrested include murder, assault and battery with a deadly weapon and assault and battery – domestic, assault and battery on a police officer, possession of a firearm, armed robbery, armed assault, possession of cocaine and marijuana, breaking and entering at night with intent to commit a felony, larceny and possession burglary tools and malicious destruction of property.

August 21, 2007 (northern and northwest Chicago suburbs, including Waukegan , Mundelein and Round Lake ): 58 Mexican nationals with ties to violent street gangs were arrested. They are affiliated with violent street gangs such as the Latin Kings, Sureno-13s, and the Latin Lovers. Of those arrested, 37 are illegal aliens and 21 are U.S. permanent residents whose previous criminal convictions render them eligible for deportation. Some of the crimes associated with the gang members arrested include aggravated battery, possessing a controlled substance, armed violence, possessing a firearm, aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, drunken driving, mob action and burglary.

August 22, 2007 ( San Diego north county communities of Vista, Oceanside , Escondido and San Marcos ): 60 foreign nationals from Mexico with ties to violent street gangs were arrested during a two week operation.

July 22, 2007 ( Arlington , Dallas , Farmers Branch, Fort Worth , Irving and Wichita Falls , Texas ): 121 violent street gang members were arrested during a seven-day enforcement action. Included were members of 27 local street gangs:  18th St., 28th St., Asian Boyz, Brown Pride, Diamond Hill, Eastside Homeboys, Eastside Locos, FTH, Fort Worth 28 Pride, How High Crew, Junior Homeboyz, Latin Kings, Love Field Players, Mexican Klan Locos, Mexican Mafia, MS-13, Neighborhood Crips, Northside Friends, Northside Locos, Puro Loco Mexicanos, Puro Tango Blast, Riverside 13, Sureno 13, True Bud Smokers, Valgos 18, Varrio Northside and Westside 12. Some of the crimes associated with the gang members arrested include; murder, sexually assaulting a child, robbery, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated robbery, possessing a controlled substance, manufacturing a controlled substance, unlawfully carrying a weapon, engaging in organized criminal activity, burglary of a building, evading arrest, and resisting arrest.

June 6, 2007 ( Anaheim , Long Beach , Los Angeles , Palmdale, Pasadena , San Fernando , Santa Ana , Signal Hill and Ventura , Calif. ): Six foreign nationals with ties to violent street gangs in the Southland were arrested during the week in an operation that resulted in the arrest of 124 gang members over a three month period. 36 were arrested on criminal charges and 88 on administrative immigration violations.  Some of the gangs involved included; MS-13, White Fence, the 18th Street Gang, the Black P-Stones, the Eastside Longos, the Villa Boys, and Los Primos.

May 24, 2007 (Guttenberg, Paterson , Union City and West New York, N. J.): An enforcement operation shut down a criminal enterprise run by members of the Latin Kings international gang in northern Hudson County . Tito Lopez, a.k.a. "King Chino," an allegedly high-ranking Latin Kings gang member and leader of the drug distribution organization was arrested. He is allegedly responsible for leading fellow gang members to a host of criminal actions including drug distribution, burglaries, witness intimidation, assaults and weapon sales. In all, the operation netted five federal, 12 state and two ICE administrative arrests. Additionally, 340 grams of cocaine and over one pound of marijuana were seized.

March 27, 2007 (Guayama, Puerto Rico ): 36 suspected members of a major violent street gang were arrested, stemming from a long-term federal investigation that targeted a Guayama-based street gang known as the Killer Bees. The investigation revealed that the Killer Bees controlled the drug and gun trafficking operations within several public housing projects and other low-income areas. The Killer Bees were also allegedly responsible for the distribution of narcotics and illegal weapons within the public housing projects as well as for laundering the proceeds generated from the illicit activity.

March 9, 2006 (23 states): During a two-week enforcement action, ICE arrested 375 gang members and associates in 23 states in a joint effort with law enforcement agencies nationwide. Large numbers of gang members were arrested in Dallas (44), San Diego (41), Washington , D.C. (22), Miami (22), and Raleigh , N.C. (19). Those arrested included members of MS-13, Surenos, 18th Street Gang, Latin Kings, Bloods, Crips, Armenian Power, Street Thug Criminals, Brown Pride, Asian Dragon Family, Avenue Assassins, Spanish Gangster Disciples, Big Time Killers and Hermanos Pistoleros Latinos. More than 260 of the 375 individuals arrested have past criminal records, most of them violent.

July 28, 2005 (nationwide): ICE arrested 582 street gang members and associates during a two-week, nationwide enforcement action. More than 54 violent street gangs were targeted, including Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), Sureños, 18th Street Gang, Latin Kings, Vatos Locos, Mexican Mafia, La Raza gang, Border Brothers, Brown Pride, Norteno, Florencia 13, Tiny Rascal, Asian Boyz and Jamaican Posse.

March 14, 2005 ( Baltimore , Dallas , Los Angeles , Miami , Newark , New York and Washington , D.C. ): ICE arrested 103 members of the violent street gang Mara Salvatrucha 13 (MS-13) in seven cities as part of the new anti-gang initiative called “Operation Community Shield.”

Intelligence Gathering and Sharing:

Under Operation Community Shield, ICE has received thousands of names of known and suspected gang members from federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, as well as from foreign governments. This information is routinely compared with ICE's immigration and customs databases to identify and prioritize gang suspects who may be subject to ICE's legal jurisdiction.

ICE's Law Enforcement Support Center (LESC) in Vermont plays a central role in this effort by running data on gang suspects provided by other law enforcement agencies against its immigration databases to determine whether these individuals are subject to ICE's federal immigration authorities. This data is then shared with ICE field offices and law enforcement partners to compile target lists.

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