Details are still emerging about a five-week operation called Project Shadowfire. Officials in a joint state, local and federal roundup of more than a thousand gang members arrested nearly a quarter of them in Texas alone.
These are not everyday criminals, according to the Homeland Security Investigations branch of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). It says this is an attempt to disrupt transnational crime organizations.
St. John Barned-Smith, reporter at the Houston Chronicle, says the crackdowns target people from gangs like MS-13, Norteños, and the Texas Syndicate, a prison gang. Homeland Security Investigations declined to provide Barned-Smith with names.
“Their reasoning was they didn’t want to hinder the prosecution,” he says. “But, personally, I think if someone’s been arrested, that’s public information. And I certainly would have liked to have known more about who these particular people were.”
Barned-Smith says of the 266 arrests in Texas, 44 were in Houston and 68 were in and around Corpus Christi. He says the charges run the gamut: weapons possession, burglary, robbery, one connected to a homicide and another to child molestation charges. The statewide Texas Anti-Gang Center – a coalition of officials from local law enforcement, the sheriff’s office, the Bureau of Prisons and ICE, with locations in Harris County and Tarrant County – has gotten credit for the sweeps.
“They’re all sort of working together to try and combat gangs,” he says. “They’re not copy-catting each other; they’re working in tandem.”
What you’ll hear in this segment:
– The purpose of the sweeps, including what cases law enforcement hopes to build from the folks arrested
– When the crackdown ended and where those arrested ended up
– Who these “gang members” are and what they were charged with