More than 100 people were arrested in a huge sweep of gang members that started in Gilroy in Santa Clara County and spilled over to four other Northern California counties.
Attorney General Kamala Harris called an afternoon press conference in Gilroy Friday afternoon to announce the operation that included 415 officers and netted 103 suspects on charges ranging from auto theft to possession of assault weapons, and drugs like methamphetamine, marijuana, heroin and cocaine.
“This was an operation to target a group of individuals who have been threatening the safety of this community and this region, and what we did together through local, state and federal resources is collaborate and coordinate, share information, share intelligence and share in the plan and goal of making sure we’d take these folks off the streets,” Harris said.
“Operation Garlic Press" included law enforcement agencies from Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Alameda, San Benito and Monterey counties, which used 39 local, county, state and federal law personnel to target three sets of criminals: violent felons, gang members and their accessories, and career criminals, according to Gilroy Police Chief Denise Turner.
The operation began through an initial investigation of auto theft and auto burglaries in Gilroy, and grew after Gilroy police reached out to neighboring counties to crackdown on a number of known gang members, who were committing crimes in the city and surrounding areas.
The crimes are believed to be connected to Nuestra Familia, one of seven prison gangs in the state. The gang controls illegal activities inside several prisons, as well as most of the Norteños gangs that operate throughout Central California, according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel.
Search warrants were delivered for auto theft, the illegal possession and sale of narcotics, criminal street-gang enhancement and the possession of stolen property.
Harris said 25 special agents, including members of the California Department of Justice, did more than 25 hours of work on the cases. Undercover officers purchased 45 firearms, 85 stolen cars and engaged in three meth transactions, Harris said.
“Although many of us in law enforcement have our jurisdictions—the geographic area in which we work—most of those criminals don’t pay attention to those lines, and that’s why we focused together on collaborating across those jurisdictional lines, to go wherever they go when they commit their crimes, so we can ensure their capture,” Harris said.
Arrests are continuing through Friday, according to First Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Stretch, who said that 12 suspects were arraigned in a San Jose court this morning for indictments including the possession and attempt to distribute methamphetamine, and for the possession of firearms and ammunition.
The undercover operation resulted in the seizure of more than three pounds of methamphetamine, 28.5 grams of heroin, four ounces of cocaine and other drugs. Authorities also seized 44 firearms and 81 stolen vehicles.