Marquette Wire

Crackdown on gang violence keeps streets safe

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Gang crime activity in Milwaukee is on the decline after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Milwaukee police arrested 21 local gang members as part of a nationwide gang crackdown in late January.

The effort resulted in the arrest of 476 gang members from coast to coast. Agents from ICE also confiscated 47 firearms as a part of “Project Big Freeze,” a concentrated law enforcement operation led by ICE.

The new federal initiative was implemented in 83 cities across the country.

The gangs targeted by the project had known ties to drug trafficking organizations. Consequently, one of the effort’s major goals was to take more drugs off the street and deter street crime in cities like Milwaukee.

“Street gangs pose a growing public safety threat to communities throughout the Milwaukee metropolitan area,” said Gary Hartwig, Special Agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Chicago and Wisconsin, in a statement to the press. “ICE will use all our law enforcement tools to thwart criminal efforts of street gangs.”

The 21 gang members arrested in Milwaukee were taken into custody between Jan. 19 and Jan. 21. Of these, 14 Mexican nationals were taken into ICE custody. They were either members or associates of the Mexican Posse street gang.

Twelve of the 14 members were in the U.S. illegally. The other two were U.S. residents who are now eligible for deportation because of charges related to murder, violence and drugs.

The other gang members were taken into MPD custody on outstanding warrants and state drug charges.

“Our strong working relationship with our federal partners like ICE allows us to conduct operations that help us get dangerous criminals off our streets and keep us on track with our mission to reduce crime, fear and disorder,” said Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn during a press conference concerning the bust.

This type of gang crime is not unfamiliar to Milwaukee. In recent years, law enforcement has had to deal with the negative effects of street gangs.

In 2008, two MPD officers were shot by a suspected 15-year-old gang member. MPD believes the teen was using a semi-automatic machine gun in the shootings.

The shooting took place in the midst of an altercation between two major gangs in Milwaukee — the Mexican Posse and the Latin Kings.

In 2005, local law enforcement arrested 49 members of the Almighty Latin King Nation street gang. The arrests stemmed from various murder, racketeering and drug charges.

Prior to this, MPD arrested nearly 200 members in seven different gangs from 2001 to 2005.

According to Department of Public Safety Lt. Paul Mascari, gangs have steered clear of the area surrounding campus, and gang-related violence has rarely been an issue in the Marquette community.

On a national scale, ICE has played a role in deterring gang crime. Since ICE started in 2005 as a division of the Department of Homeland Security, agents have arrested 16,144 gang members.

That number includes 202 gang leaders and 2,898 members of the notorious MS-13 gang, one of the largest gangs in the country.

By the end of last month, 6,805 of the gang members arrested were criminally charged and 9,339 were charged with immigration violations and processed for deportation.

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