El Paso police roundup ends with 100 gang-related arrests

By Hayley Kappes \ El Paso Timeselpasotimes.com
Posted: 11/10/2012 12:00:00 AM MST

A nearly three-month operation that targeted gang-related crimes in Northeast El Paso resulted in more than 100 arrests -- most of which were on outstanding narcotics warrants.

Operation Triple Beam, which started in mid-August and ended Friday, led to the arrests of 119 gang members and 17 convicted felons who failed to register as sex offenders, according to the El Paso Police Department.

Officers seized about $15,000 in cash, five firearms and drugs with a street value of more than $85,000. More than 330 outstanding warrants were cleared with the arrests.

"Some of these people are well-known gang members in the community and well-known gangs themselves that have actual cartel ties in Mexico," Police Chief Greg Allen said. This is one of the things that's driving our crime rates in El Paso. Statistically, (the Northeast) is where we had the numbers that looked the most promising and from that we began to see flare-ups in other areas of town."

Allen said he could not specify whether Mexican cartels using El Paso to funnel drugs throughout the United States has caused a spike in gang activity in town.

The increased crime in the Northeast has not been tied to Fort Bliss' growth, but the socioeconomics of the area might have contributed, Allen said.

"The lower part of Dyer is a little more dilapidated than the northern parts of Dyer, so you can see certain problems occurring over and over," Allen said. "We've had shootings there and different gangs trying to power for ownership of different bars."
This year so far, two of 23 homicides have been gang related, Allen said.

He declined to give more specifics about the gang members who were targeted in the operation because doing so would compromise ongoing investigations.

The operation was part of a national gang enforcement program overseen by the U.S. Marshals Service, which gave the city $50,000 to cover overtime expenses of El Paso police officers working on the investigations. The Lone Star Fugitive Task Force and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives helped in the operation.

The U.S. Marshals Service has helped local and state law enforcement agencies across the country carry out the same operation, including in San Antonio and Tulsa, Okla., where the pilot program started in 2010.

Native El Pasoan Robert Almonte, U.S. marshal for the Western District of Texas, said he wants to get more funding for more operations targeting gangs in El Paso.

Almonte said the El Paso operation was a success because of the number of fugitive gang members with criminal records and outstanding warrants who were arrested.

Authorities on Oct. 4 arrested Carey Len Lewis, 30, on suspicion of manufacture and delivery of cocaine and heroine, Almonte said as an example of the typical arrests the operation had.

Lewis was booked into the El Paso County Jail on charges that included unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon and possession of marijuana between 2 and 4 ounces, according to county records.

"We're not going tolerate these gang members committing crimes in our community," Almonte said. "We're going to stay on their heels. We're not going to let them catch their breath. If they have a warrant out for them... it's not a matter of if we're going to arrest them, it's a matter of when."

Hayley Kappes may be reached at hkappes@elpasotimes.com; 546-6168. Follow her on Twitter @hayleykappes

El Paso police roundup ends with 100 gang-related arrests - El Paso Times