MS-13 gang members were among 30 people arrested on Long Island recently as part of a national sweep by a federal law enforcement unit targeting criminal organizations, federal officials said Thursday.
The arrests were part of a six-week “gang surge” that netted 1,378 people, many considered suspects in transnational criminal activity including drug trafficking, smuggling of people and weapons, sex trafficking and murder, according to Homeland Security officials at a news briefing in Washington, D.C.
Nabbed in the operation were 151 people in New York identified as members of MS-13 and other gangs, including the 30 on Long Island. Of those arrested in the state, 21 were identified as members of MS-13, which has been linked to multiple killings in the region, according to a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement official in New York.
“Let me be clear that these violent criminal street gangs are the biggest threat facing our communities,” said Thomas Homan, ICE’s acting director.
The arrests are part of a larger ongoing enforcement operation known as Community Shield and launched in 2005.
“I want to make sure there’s no mistake: We are not done,” Homan said.
The latest arrests took place between March 26 and May 6 as agents of Homeland Security Investigations fanned out to apprehend people with known gang links, according to ICE.
Other gangs were targeted nationally in the operation, leading to arrests of people affiliated with the Bloods, Sureños and Crips, as well in a targeted enforcement effort that included areas such as Washington, D.C., San Antonio, San Diego and Newark. Officials said some of the gangs have been working together in their attempt to maximize illicit proceeds by specializing in different criminal activities.
Long Island has recently become an important front in the fight against gangs as a series of brutal killings of mostly young people in Brentwood and Central Islip have been linked to MS-13 — drawing the attention of authorities beyond the region.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions vowed “to demolish” MS-13 during a visit to Central Islip last month, where he renewed the administration’s commitment to back local law enforcement and federal prosecutors in their efforts.
Federal law enforcement agencies will continue their work to deter gangs nationally and even abroad, said Derek Benner, of the federal Department of Homeland Security.
“The command and control of MS-13 still resides in El Salvador,” which is where “they run their illicit operations,” saidBenner, who also took part in the news conference. “We’re really trying to push our borders out and do a lot of our work . . . along the illicit pathway from Central America to the United States.”