The New York office of of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency is focusing its attention on gangs, says the New York Times. In the year ending last September, the agency arrested 285 suspects it said were gang members or close associates – a record for the office and a fivefold increase over the same period the previous year. The surge coincided with the arrival of James Hayes Jr., agent in charge of the investigations division.
Hayes, 37, said that when he assumed the job, he said, he reviewed the office's recent moves against gangs – it had made 57 such arrests in the previous year – and concluded that his team could be doing far more. He added 3 agents to a force that now numbers 11, “and really gave them a mandate, not just to look at individual gang members but to look at these street gangs as criminal organizations and to use all our tools to disrupt and dismantle them.” The stepped-up action against gangs reflects a nationwide shift in priorities by ICE, an arm of the Department of Homeland Security, which says it is now focusing on capturing immigrants who pose a threat to public safety and security, rather than those with civil violations. Operation Community Shield is a five-year-old national campaign by the agency to dismember violent street gangs by prosecuting and deporting their members and associates.