A gang crackdown by Immigration and Customs Enforcement has led to 42 arrests; many of those caught will face deportation.
The gang-targeting operation lasted nearly a week and was one of the largest ever in Utah. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents got some help from a number of local, state and federal agencies aided in this effort. They targeted illegal immigrants with known gang ties, and this is just the latest in what has become a summer of large-scale crackdowns.
In June, the U.S. Marshals slapped handcuffs on more than 150 accused felons as part of Operation Falcon; many were known gang members. About a month later, Immigration and Customs Enforcement began executing a different effort called Operation Community Shield.
Jonathan Lines, with the ICE office of investigations, said, "This was a long drawn out process of intelligence gathering. Illegal immigration is one thing, but gang membership coupled with illegal immigration is something we're going to focus on very extremely."
The ICE Office of Investigations in Salt Lake City began working with local police, county and state law enforcement agencies to combat Utah's gang violence, which in recent months has devastated communities and claimed some of the most innocent lives.
"That's a horrible tragedy. That's something that we shouldn't have to be subjected to," Lines said.
ICE's gang crackdown has led to 115 total arrests: 29 in Provo, 28 in Ogden, 16 in St. George, and, in the past week, 42 in the Salt Lake Valley.
Sgt. Gregg Olsen, with the Midvale City Police Department, said, "I think it sends a really strong signal to the illegal gangs out there."
A number of arrests were made with the help of Midvale police, who say multi-agency teamwork is needed to take on gangs. "It's not a problem that's going to continue to go down. It's a problem that's going to continue to increase in the valley," Olsen said.
Lines added, "Is there really a gang problem in Salt Lake City? Well, this is a good indicator there is, and it's not just Salt Lake City, we wanted to show that there's a gang problem in all parts of Utah."
Lines appeared on Utah's Afternoon News. He said, "These guys aren't in prison because many times they've already served their prison sentences, been deported and have returned and remained in the shadows."
But Lines says they're not in the shadows any more, unless you count the shadows of the cell bars.
All of those arrested are either documented gang members or gang associates. Five of the previously deported suspects had prior convictions for drug offenses and violent crimes. They now are facing federal charges for re-entry after deportation, a felony that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
The remaining individuals were arrested on administrative immigration violations. They will be held pending a deportation hearing.