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Federal immigration officials confirmed Wednesday that 18 Utah gang members were among the more than 1,200 suspects rounded up as part of Homeland Security's six-week, nationwide Project Wildfire.
The crackdown netted members and associates of 239 different gangs that ranged from those connected to Mexican drug gangs like the Sureños and Norteños, to the Crips or Bloods street gangs, the Tiny Oriental Posse and the white supremacist Soldiers of Aryan Culture prison gang, said Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Sarah R. Saldaña.
In Utah, ICE agents enlisted the aid of the U.S. Marshals, Unified Police Department and police from Taylorsville, Cottonwood Heights and Washington County, as well as the Utah Department of Corrections
"Criminal gangs inflict violence and fear upon our communities, and without the attention of law enforcement, these groups can spread like a cancer," Saldaña stated. "That's why ICE works with law enforcement partners around the country to stamp out gang activity wherever it takes place."
Project Wildfire began on Feb. 23 and ran through March 31, stretching from coast to coast. In all, 215 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies were involved in the crackdown, the domestic part of Homeland Security's global Operation Community Shield initiative.
While most of suspects arrested were U.S. citizens, 199 foreign nationals were among those taken off the streets. In addition to South and Central America, those foreign nationals also came from countries in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Caribbean.
ICE said 976 arrestees were identified as members of prison, street or motorcycle gangs. About 650 of those had violent criminal pasts 19 of them sought on active warrants for murder and 15 for rape or sexual assaults.
Another 231 were nabbed on various federal and state criminal or immigration violations.