“Operation Community Shield”–federal raids this week in seven cities to bust 103 members of the international gang Mara Salvatrucha has at least put a small dent in a criminal organization that authorities believe is a growing menace, reports the Christian Science Monitor. The gang, also known as MS-13, has moved to the top of law enforcers’ worry list because of its international roots; reputation for brutality; and a focus on cross-border trafficking in guns, drugs, and humans.
The Monitor says the raids may have represented a breakthrough in federal-local cooperation in the war on street gangs. For years, many local law-enforcement officers have refused to ask suspects about their immigration status. One reason is that local police believe it would jeopardize otherwise law-abiding illegal immigrants from informing on their criminal brethren. The new cooperation, combined with the authority of the Homeland Security Department’s new Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), is likely to lead to more raids. “This whole idea is just in its nascent stages,” says Virginia Kice, Western communications director for ICE. The target of this week’s raids in cities including Los Angeles, Baltimore, New York, Miami, Washington, and Newark, N.J. -was a gang that authorities say has cells in 33 states and up to 50,000 members in the U.S. and Latin America.