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Monday, 15 December 2008

Five of those in custody have leadership roles with MS-13

Arrests of 14 men and one woman were made between 3 and 7 p.m. on the North Side. Tamarack Circle, and areas around I-71 and Rt. 161 were targeted, officials said.
All 15 are in custody at the Franklin County jail and elsewhere, said Cmdr. Jeffrey Blackwell of the Columbus Police Strategic Response Bureau. Their names weren't available late last night.Everyone arrested yesterday was an illegal immigrant and affiliated with the MS-13 gang, which originated in El Salvador, he said. The FBI and Franklin County sheriff's office also contributed to the arrests, Blackwell said.
"MS-13 is a Hispanic gang notorious for violence," he said. "With the growing Hispanic population here, this gang has moved in and done its thing. … Over the last several months, there's been a proliferation of felonious-type crimes."Blackwell said gang members are suspected in two slayings, though he wouldn't give details. None of the people arrested had been charged with murder last night. The specific charges weren't available, but Blackwell said the gang members have been responsible for an escalation of the drug trade, robbery and burglary, among other crimes.
"People are so afraid, so fearful of retaliation from MS-13," he said.Blackwell estimated Columbus' Latino population at between 70,000 and 100,000."This gang has followed and set up shop," he said. Blackwell estimated the gang has more than 100 members in the Columbus area.Scott Best, resident agent in charge for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office of Investigations, said the probe began after an arrest by Columbus police in 2004. A 2005 operation netted nine "international" gang members, meaning they'd traveled to and from the country, he said."This is part of a nationwide crackdown, Operation Community Shield," Best said. "Columbus is one of the key areas."Five of those in custody have leadership roles with MS-13, he said, and more arrests are expected."We want to prosecute (gang members) on state, local and federal charges," he said.Blackwell said the arrests would have a positive effect on the level of violence and drug dealing.
"We're trying to make people feel safe, so they can come forward," Blackwell said.


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