Nearly 1,000 suspected gang members, including almost 90 from the Los Angeles area, were swept up in a nationwide crackdown on transnational gangs, authorities announced Wednesday.
The sweep, dubbed Operation Wildfire, pulled in 87 members of more than 40 local gangs including Barrio Van Nuys, the Eastside Wilmas and 18th Street, said Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in a news statement. The sweeps were carried out from Feb. 23 to March 31.
An additional 50 people from the Bay Area and 28 from Imperial Valley were arrested, officials said.
Most of those arrested were charged with violating state laws but many from countries like Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras also are being processed for deportation, authorities said.
Nearly 180 people were arrested in California as part of the operation; 976 people were taken into custody in total. Five vehicles, about 80 guns, 20 kilos of drugs, $380,000 in cash and $550,000 in counterfeit goods were seized during the sweep, authorities said.
"Criminal gangs inflict violence and fear upon our communities and without the attention of law enforcement, these groups can spread like a cancer," said ICE Director Sarah R. Saldaña.
Officials say 19 of those arrested had warrants for murder and an additional 15 for rape or sexual assault. One man in L.A. was arrested on suspicion of narcotics trafficking after law enforcement officials said they found he was allegedly selling methamphetamine within 100 yards of a school.
The crackdown involved ICE, agents from Homeland Security Investigations and hundreds of local police departments across the country.
Authorities believe that up to 70% of the nation's methamphetamine enters the country through the San Diego Port of Entry.