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APD, FBI, others arrest dozens in round-up of suspected gang members

Friday, April 1, 2011 by Michael Kanin

Austin Police, along with other local and federal agencies, announced the arrest of some 30 suspected gang members Thursday following a yearlong investigation into their activities in Central Texas. Many of them are suspected to have links to drug gangs from Mexico. There are outstanding warrants for nine additional suspects.

 

Police officials say they arrests should a clear message to citizens: Austin is a big city and it has big city problems.

 

People who don’t believe we have a big gang problem are “naïve people,” said Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo. “They are in denial. Those folks are the same people that will tell you – and they’ll believe – that this is a sleepy college town.”

 

On Thursday, officials from Acevedo’s department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Travis County District Attorney’s office gathered at APD Headquarters announce the arrests. Behind a table full of weapons and illegal drugs, they told members of the news media that they had arrested 30 suspects in an operation they called Gang Crusher.

 

The chief of Austin’s Gang Unit, Lt. Norris McKenzie, said that there may be more press conferences to come. “It’s my mandate for my unit … to always have roundups,” he said. “If you’re going to be out there terrorizing this city … I’m going to try to do one of these every six months, if I can.”

 

“I could have kept this particular (operation) running for a year,” McKenzie added, “but at some point, when you’re doing the undercover buys, you’ve got to stop and put them in jail.”

 

Acevedo noted that the 40 individuals charged as part of the operation were selected because of their criminal histories and the types of charges pending against them. “What we did is we prioritized our collective resources on the worst of the worst,” he said. 

 

He also answered those who might be critical of his policies. “I keep getting accused by some of those critics of trying to turn the City of Austin into Los Angeles,” he said. “What I’m trying to do is not be in denial and keep the City of Austin from turning into a Los Angeles, from turning into a Chicago, from turning into a New Orleans – from turning into a city where violence is on the street every single day.”

 

McKenzie told In Fact Daily that Gang Crusher had consumed “an extensive amount of man hours” since it began in the summer of 2010. He added that much of the work to apprehend this round of suspects was targeted at their drug operations. “I just want them to know they never know who they are selling narcotics to, put it that way,” he said.

 

Many of the suspects arrested in the operation have a lengthy criminal history, with arrests for murder, aggravated sexual assault, engaging in organized criminal activity, and escape. “We know in law enforcement that some … people might commit crimes – they might do it once and never do it again,” said Acevedo. “Well, these are the people that have demonstrated through their actions that they are in it for life. I mean, they’re all in … And so when they’re all in, well, guess what? We’re all in, in coming after them.”

 

Eleven of those arrested will be charged with federal crimes.

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