Dozens of Charlotte, N.C., residents were arrested early yesterday as several law enforcement agencies cracked down on violent street gangs. The Charlotte Observer said sixty-two people were arrested, including 53 gang members or associates who face deportation hearings. “The message we are sending gang members and would-be-gang members is simple,” U.S. Attorney Bob Conrad said. “Not in our neighborhood.”
About 150 officers started the raids before 6 a.m.; some were armed with assault rifles and wore bulletproof vests. In teams of six, they entered homes. Those suspected of being illegal immigrants were taken away.
The arrests were part of Operation Fed Up, which targeted members of Mara Salvatrucha 13, a traditionally Salvadoran gang tied to at least 11 killings in Charlotte since 2000. Police have documented more than 200 gang members, and there are likely many more. Most of those arrested yesterday were MS-13 members, and some belonged to rival Latino gangs. Most of the arrestees are from Venezuela, Mexico, Honduras and El Salvador.
The arrests were made by Charlotte-Mecklenburg police, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the State Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Secret Service.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Darrel Stephens noted that “we have gangs of other ethnicities and they will not be ignored.” Police have documented about 800 gang members. Of those, 39 percent are Latino; 47 percent are black, 10 percent are Asian; 4 percent are white.