Alabaster Police assist with state gang roundup

Published 3:51 pm Monday, September 14, 2009

Alabaster Police officers last week aided U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in arresting 23 suspected Hispanic gang members throughout three Alabama counties.

The local officers provided manpower and several marked police cruisers as the ICE agents swept through parts of Shelby, Jefferson and Morgan counties during Operation Community Shield.

The operation is aimed at combating “the significant threat posed by transnational street gangs,” according to an ICE press release.

“We did help them out after we got a request from them last week, but our involvement was actually pretty limited,” Alabaster Deputy Chief Curtis Rigney said Monday. “They just had a list of several subjects they were looking for in the city, and we went out with them just to provide some officers and marked cars.”

The arrests came during a four-day street gang crackdown, during which 20 men, two women and one juvenile thought to be connected with violent gangs were brought into custody.

The officers targeted suspected members of the gangs Sureno-13, La Quemada, MS 13, Brown Pride 13, Southside Locotes, Lejion Negra and Judas 13.

Though Rigney said Alabaster has not faced a significant gang problem, the deputy chief explained the operation was intended to be a proactive strike at possible gang centers.

“We actually haven’t seen any gang-related problems here, but that’s not to say they’re not out there or that we won’t have them in the future,” Rigney said. “The purpose of the operation was to get to it before it becomes a big problem.

“We want to get these known gang members in jail or out of the country before they start causing real problems,” Rigney added.

After the arrests, authorities transported 18 men to the Dekalb Jail in Fort Payne, and three suspects were released pending their hearings before an immigration judge, according to the release.

One suspect is being held in the Decatur Jail on state trespassing and probation violations charges, and another is facing federal weapons possession charges and was turned over to the U.S. Marshals Service. Neither of the suspects facing criminal charges were arrested in Shelby County.

Because the investigation is ongoing, ICE agents Monday were unable to provide the suspects’ names or addresses. However, all arrests made in Alabaster “went smoothly,” Rigney said.

“We have assisted ICE before, and they have helped us out before in the past,” Rigney said. “They really do excellent work, and we are glad to help them out any chance we get.”

During the sweep, ICE agents also worked with officers from Pelham, Hoover, Decatur and deputies with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.

“ICE works closely with our local and law enforcement partners to identify, locate and arrest these gang members to thwart criminal activity in our communities,” Jesse Blakeman, resident agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Birmingham, wrote in a release.

“Ultimately, ICE deports these gang members,” Blakeman added.