Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Gang sweep in Selma nets 6 known Surenos (Selma Enterprise)

Gang sweep in Selma nets 6 known Surenos

By Ira Sather-Olson

During a gang sweep in Selma last week, officials with local, regional and federal law enforcement agencies arrested six validated Sureno gang members. "We think it was successful," said Tom Whiteside, Selma Police Chief. From 3 to 8 p.m. Sept. 8, officials with the Selma Police Department, Fresno County's Southwest Multi-Agency Gang Enforcement Consortium team, called MAGEC, and the federal U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, called ICE, agency conducted the operation, known as Operation Community Shield.

According to Whiteside, all six validated gang members who were arrested were found in the Southwest side of Selma. Some of the places they were located include the Vineland Village apartment complex and Ringo Park.

Of those men, five were taken into custody by the immigration and customs agency and have gone through deportation proceedings.

These five men are: Juan Carlos Conchola Ledesma, 33; Saul Armando Salazar-Jimenez, 23; Jose De Jesus Conchola Ledesma, 25; Carlos Ortega, 18; and Misael Ventura, 19.

The sixth person -- Jose Mendez Guzman, 23 -- was stopped for suspicion of driving under the influence. He is currently being held at the Fresno County Jail on an open DUI charge. After court proceedings, he will face deportation as well.

Whiteside also said the men arrested during this sweep have been involved in various criminal activities including assault with a deadly weapon, battery, as well as illegal drug use and drug sales.

But the detail that occurred last week in Selma is just one of several that happen throughout the U.S. each year.

First launched in February 2005 by ICE, the program specifically targets transnational street gangs. To do this, the agency enlists the help of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

Recent figures from ICE indicate that since it began, the program has led to the arrest of just more than 10,280 street gang members and their associates. Of that, 3,740 include criminal arrests while just more than 6,540 were administrative immigration arrests.

In Whiteside's view, the PD's work with ICE has been successful in targeting violent transnational street gangs. He said the PD likes to work with ICE because of its broad enforcement powers, including the authority to remove illegal immigrant gang members through the process of deportation.

"The criminal illegal immigrant problem has been growing and its been a growing issue, and so we have had to find methods to deal with it effectively," Whiteside said. "And Operation Community Shield has been one of the best methods we have found to be effective."

As to how the Selma PD, MAGEC and ICE discovers these gang members, Whiteside said it's a multi-step process.

"We identify who the violent street gang members are, develop intelligence on their activities, (and) we use these details to deter them, disrupt and dismantle these gang activities," he said.

Still, this isn't the first gang sweep in Selma.

According to Selma PD Officer Perfecto Barbosa, this is the third detail that has happened in the city within the last year.

During their last operation, in February, officials with the Selma PD, ICE and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives arrested four foreign gang members.

But during their efforts last week, Barbosa, like Whiteside, said the sweep was a success.

"We had six guys in five hours, which is really good," he said.

Barbosa was the acting operation supervisor during the arrests, which means he coordinated the detail and made sure the operation went as planned.

For his part, Barbosa said these details are beneficial not only for the community, but also for the PD's continued effort to crack down on gangs and gang activity in Selma.

"This is just another enforcement tool we have... it's a huge help," he said.

And according to Whiteside, citizens shouldn't expect operations like these to cease anytime soon.

"We will continue to conduct these efforts to increase the public's awareness about our fight against violent street gangs," he said.

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