US authorities arrested nearly 1000 gang members

US authorities have arrested nearly 1000 gang members in a nationwide sweep called "Project Wildfire," amid evidence that the gangs have links to Mexican drug cartels which could indicate the growing reach of Mexican criminals within the United State.

Project Wildfire, a joint Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) operation, pulled in 976 gang members from 239 different gangs, in 282 cities across the United States, according to an ICE press release.  While the majority of the arrests were US citizens, the hardest hit gangs have extensive transnational ties.

The US-Mexico border region saw the most arrests, but the operation reached as far as Detroit and Chicago, where authorities captured members of the Latin Kings and Sureño 13 -- both of which have links to the Sinaloa Cartel.

Police arrested 116 gang members in El Paso, a stronghold of Barrio Azteca and Sureño 13, two gangs that operate in multiple US states and play a major role in narcotics distribution for Mexican drug trafficking organizations, according to the El Paso Times.

In the operation, which lasted from February 23 to March 31, police also seized 82 firearms, 5.2 kilograms of methamphetamine, 7.8 kilograms of marijuana, 5.6 kilograms of cocaine, and 1.5 kilograms of heroin.

InSight Crime Analysis

In recent years, the relationships between Mexican criminal organizations and US gangs have evolved. While Mexican groups usually tend to subcontract narcotics distribution and contract killings in the United States to gangs, some groups like Barrio Azteca, a prison gang that originated in Texas, and Sureño 13, have formed stronger partnerships with Mexican cartels.

Barrio Azteca made an international expansion from the United States into Mexico, where its gang members worked as foot soldiers for La Linea, the armed wing of the Juarez Cartel, during a brutal battle for control of the Mexican border city Juarez, which set the stage for the Aztecas to make the jump into transnational drug trafficking.

SEE ALSO: Barrio Azteca Profile

And Sureño 13, a gang that evolved out of the Mexican Mafia in California, took over many Texas drug corridors with help from the Sinaloa Cartel, according to the 2014 Texas Gang Threat Assessment.

Closer relationships with US gangs allow Mexican groups to outsource the risks of entering US territory. Indeed, as the major cartels splinter and fragment in Mexico, there is some indication that an increased reliance on kidnapping and extortion as revenue streams has spilled across the border. For instance, an officer from the Los Angeles Police Department recently said they were receiving reports of extortion calls originating in Mexico that target Latino residents in the United States.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

When violence surged in early 2015 in Guatemala, then-President Otto Pérez Molina knew how to handle the situation: Blame the street gangs. 

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

When someone is murdered in Guatemala, police, forensic doctors and government prosecutors start making their way to the crime scene and a creaky, antiquated 20th century bureaucratic machine kicks into gear. Calls are made. Forms are filled out by hand, or typed into computers, or both. Some...

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Following Guatemala's long and brutal civil war, members of the military were charged, faced trial and sentenced to jail time. Even some members of a powerful elite unit known as the Kaibil were put behind bars. Among these prisoners, none were more emblematic than Captain Byron Lima...

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

Local police and justice officials are convinced that the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) has strengthened its presence along the East Coast of the United States. The alarm follows a recent spate of violence -- of the type not seen in a decade -- which included dismembered bodies and...

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Olfato. It is a term used quite often in law enforcement and judicial circles in Central America (and other parts of the world as well). It refers to the sixth sense they have as they see a crime scene, investigate a murder or plow through the paperwork...

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

The department of Nariño in southwest Colombia is the main coca-producing area in the country and in the world. It is a place scarred by poverty and years of armed conflict between guerrillas, the state and paramilitary groups. Perhaps nowhere else in the country are the challenges...

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

In the last decade, homicides in Guatemala have obeyed a fairly steady pattern. Guatemala City and some of its surrounding municipalities have the greatest sheer number of homicides. Other states, particularly along the eastern border have the highest homicide rates. Among these are the departments of Escuintla...

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador's prison system is the headquarters of the country's largest gangs. It is also where one of these gangs, the MS13, is fighting amongst itself for control of the organization.

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

José Adán Salazar Umaña is the only Salvadoran citizen currently on the US government's Kingpin List. But in his defense, Salazar Umaña claims is he is an honorable businessman who started his career by exchanging money along the borders between Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. He does...