Nearly 300 gang members and associates were arrested in the Los Angeles area in the last six months as part of a nationwide crackdown that targeted gangs involved in cross-border smuggling of people and weapons, drug trafficking, identity theft and other crimes, the Los Angeles Times reports. The arrests were among 1,785 made around the U.S. from March to September as part of Operation Community Shield, a coordinated effort by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies that was launched by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2005.
The sweep included the arrest of 78 alleged members or associates of the Avenues gang on federal charges related to drug dealing and previously unsolved killings, said agent Jorge Guzman of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The operation was initially intended to target the Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13, one of the most violent street gangs in the United States, but has since grown into an international effort. “That is a huge hammer against these criminal gangs,” Guzman said. The operation has chipped away at notorious gangs, including the Sureno and various Asian Tong gangs, he said.