SAN BERNARDINO – Authorities targeting a major gang that has spread across the United States made over 100 arrests in Southern California last week, more than 600 nationally that include at least 100 total gangs.
Investigators from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement team led the raids, which took prisoners into custody on either criminal charges or immigration violations, information released this week. The “Project Southbound” netted 131 arrests across five Southern California counties – Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura – though breakdowns for each city and county were not yet available. There were 638 arrests made nationally, according to a release.
The massive state and national sweep included the Mexican Mafia gang, Los Sureños. A total of 19 firearms were also seized during the month-long local operation that that took place from March 12 through April 13.
Authorities said membership and cliques associated with Sureños have grown quickly, faster than any other national-level gang in the U.S., numbers that were released by the Department of Justice’s National Gang Intelligence Center’s 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment.
The gang has been linked to murder, extortion, narcotics trafficking, human trafficking and prostitution, according to San Bernardino County officials. Estimates link Sureños members to over 30,000 people across the U.S. Also known as Sur 13, the gang was originally formed in Southern California. Nationwide affiliates pay tribute to the Mexican Mafia and the number “13” is considered the symbol that signifies “M” in the alphabet for Mexican Mafia.
Los Angeles County is considered the hub of the gang’s activities, according to authorities. Special agent Claude Arnold, who heads up the Homeland Security Investigations in Southern California, released a statement calling the operation a success. But he noted there was still plenty more work, stating, “These are ruthless people whose criminal activities and turf wars menace our communities and place innocent members of the public in harm’s way.”
Arnold said there are more than 150,000 documented gang members in the L.A. area. During the month-long sweep, special agents with Homeland Security combined with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.
According to a release, 106 suspects are facing state prosecution for violations that range from weapons offenses to drug charges. Some may be facing removal from the country.
Press Telegram: Massive Gang sweep nets 130 arrests
OC Register: Seven O.C. arrests part of national gang sweep