Project Southbound: 20 Toledo gang members arrested in large op - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Project Southbound: 20 Toledo gang members arrested in nationwide operation

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(Toledo News Now) -

More than 600 gang members and associates from 145 different gangs were arrested in 179 cities across the U.S. during Project Southbound, a month-long operation executed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations, which targeted gangs affiliated with the Sureños.

Of the 638 arrested around the country, 20 were arrested in Toledo. HSI special agents partnered with the Toledo Police Department's Gang Task Force during the operation.  

The Sureños, also known as Sur 13, is a transnational criminal street gang that originated in Southern California with hundreds of cliques around the U.S. The Sureños and their affiliates pay tribute to the Mexican Mafia and the number "13" is their symbol signifying "M" in the alphabet for Mexican Mafia.

"We are trying to do anything we can to circumvent any kind of criminal activity that's occurring with any gang members," said Lt. Edward Bombrys, commander of the Toledo Police Department's Gang Task Force.

Membership and cliques associated with the Sureños are expanding faster than any other national-level gang in the country, according to the U.S. Department of Justice's National Gang Intelligence Center's 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment. Sureños gang members are involved in a myriad of criminal activity, including murder, extortion, narcotics trafficking, human trafficking, prostitution and other crimes with a nexus to the border.

Through Project Southbound, which ran March 12 to April 13, HSI special agents worked with 150 federal, state and local law enforcement partners to apprehend individuals from various gangs affiliated with the Sureños. More than 73 percent of those arrested during this operation were members or associates of the Sureños.

In addition to the 638 gang members and associates, HSI agents also arrested – or assisted in the arrest of – 119 other individuals on federal and/or state criminal violations and administrative immigration violations, for a total of 757 arrests.

"Project Southbound is the largest-ever ICE operation targeting the Sureños gang," said ICE Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Thomas Winkowski. "This gang now has more than 30,000 members in the United States and its numbers are growing. Targeting transnational gangs, like the Sureños, is a top priority for ICE and we will continue to disrupt and dismantle the violence and criminal activities that they inflict upon our neighborhoods."

"The Toledo Police Department is always a willing partner in the aggressive effort to reduce gang violence in our communities," said Bombrys. "When we combine our unique expertise, capabilities and resources with other local, state and federal agencies, our strength is unmatched."

Of the 638 gang members or associates arrested:

- 525 were charged with criminal offenses

- 113 were arrested administratively for immigration violations

- 414 had violent criminal histories, including seven individuals wanted for murder and five wanted for rape or sexual assault

- 256 were foreign nationals

Those arrested during Project Southbound came from 21 countries in South and Central America, Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. Of the total 757 arrested, 678 were males and 79 were females.

HSI special agents also seized:

- 54 firearms

- 13.36 pounds of methamphetamine

- 82.76 pounds of marijuana

- 3.075 pounds of cocaine

- 1.44 pounds of heroin

- more than $166,000 in U.S. currency

- 10 vehicles

There are many different gangs spread out around Toledo. Although gang activity is a problem in the Glass City, police say it has gotten much better.

"I think the actions and the things our proactive investigative techniques that we have been using are making a positive impact on the activity," said Bombrys.

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