Pubdate: Sat, 08 Sep 2007
Source: Huntsville Times (AL)
Copyright: 2007 The Huntsville Times
Author: David Brewertimes, Staff Writer


3-Day Crackdown In 5 Northeast Counties Results In 355

BOAZ - One of the country's most dangerous gangs is believed to be
behind drug dealing and other crimes in DeKalb and Marshall counties,
according to law enforcement officials.

At a news conference Friday in Boaz, Assistant FBI Director Kenneth
Kaiser said the El Salvador-based gang MS-13 has a presence in the
area. "We have a major concern about them," he said. "They are a very
violent, prevalent group."

Kaiser joined FBI agents and local and state law enforcement officials
in announcing that more than 350 arrests had been made in a three-day
crackdown on illegal drug and gang activity in Operation Clean Sweep.

The operation, which started Tuesday, consisted of raids, roadblocks
and aerial searches in five northeast Alabama counties: Blount,
DeKalb, Etowah, Marshall and St. Clair.

Overall, according to the FBI, many of the 355 arrests during
Operation Clean Sweep involved drug trafficking and distribution, and
illegal possession of firearms. Law enforcement agents also arrested
two previously deported illegal immigrants - a convicted sex offender
and a validated gang member. They also seized about 30 guns, including
several assault rifles and sawed-off shotguns.

Although many of the arrests in Marshall and DeKalb counties were
drug-related, officials said they do not yet know how many of the
suspects are gang members.

"We won't know for some time," said DeKalb County District Attorney
Mike Odell. "But we are seeing a rise in MS-13-like gang activity
among juveniles. It is a growing concern (that) we want to make sure
we get a handle on before it gets out of control."

Over the past five years, local law enforcement agencies have seen an
increase in methamphetamine from Mexico being sold in DeKalb, Etowah
and Marshall counties, Odell said. He said the problem is particularly
bad in the rural Sand Mountain community of Kilpatrick, near Crossville.

Marshall County District Attorney Steve Marshall said gang-related
graffiti has been found in the Kilpatrick area. The meth problem and
its suspected tie to gangs are common among the other four counties,
he said, and that's why those counties' district attorneys and law
enforcement officials asked the FBI for help.

Kaiser said MS-13 migrated through Mexico to Los Angeles and spread
throughout the country. The group is behind illegal drug trafficking,
murders and extortion, mainly in Hispanic communities.

The Kilpatrick community has a large Hispanic population.

MS-13 "is a very violent, prevalent group," Kaiser said. "They may go
to a place where they figure law enforcement is not a cohesive effort
like what's here." This week's operation, he said, "may have surprised

Chief Investigator John Young of the Marshall County district
attorney's office said Operation Clean Sweep was just the start to
find out more about illegal gang and drug activity in the area.

More investigations are expected over the next year as a result of the
operation, he said.
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