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122 gang members arrested in Lubbock as part of ICE's 'Project Wildfire'

Published: Apr. 8, 2015 at 6:34 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 7, 2015 at 6:34 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - 122 suspected gang members and their associates are now in jail here in Lubbock, after a month-long operation known as "Project Wildfire."

The results from the operation show that Lubbock led the nation in the number of arrests.

ICE's Homeland Security Investigations led the operation in total of 282 cities. To give some perspective, Lubbock had 122 gang member arrests while Puerto Rico and Central Florida had 46, Detroit had 89 arrests, Chicago had 30, California's Imperial Valley had 28 arrests, and in the remaining 277 cities there were 661 arrests of gang members and associates.

The operation was held nationwide, making a total of 976 arrests, but with Lubbock in the lead with more than 12 percent of the arrests.

Some residents like Fabian Montanez, a father in north Lubbock, said he tries his best to keep his teen out of trouble.

"When he gets home safe, its weight off my shoulders. I don't want him going out and getting jumped by some random kids or gang members," Montanez said.

Growing up in Lubbock, Montanez said he definitely saw and was around a lot of gang activity.

"When I was younger, I used to hang around a lot of gang members and I've seen things," Montanez said. "I tell him it's just evolved."

Evolved in a way, where they are now into more dangerous crimes.

Charles Cobb with HSI in Lubbock said they are not just dealing drugs, but also prostitution and human trafficking.

He said though they work with state and local agencies to make arrests, they are interested in a bigger picture.

"What we wanted out of this was intelligence, the information that connects these local gangs to transnational criminal organizations that connect them to cartel members," Cobb said.

Something a father like Montanez is glad to see.

"If they're cleaning up the streets, helping out in Lubbock, I think that's a good thing. At least you know your kids aren't out there getting hassled or what not," Montanez said.

Cobb said the high number in Lubbock is something that residents here should be aware of.

He said that more women are starting to get involved in gang related activity and of the 122 arrested, roughly 25 were females.

"There is something to pay attention to here in Lubbock. We work very closely with Sheriff Rowe in Lubbock County Sheriff's Office, Lubbock Police, Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas

Alcohol and Beverage Commission, and other federal agencies: DEA, ATF, here in Lubbock to counter that," Cobb said.

Cobb said members from 16 different gangs were arrested and that it was not just located in one part of town, but there were arrests in every part of town.

But, he does not want to alarm anyone, just wants residents here to be alert and report any suspicious activity they may see to authorities.

To report suspicious activity, call ICE's 24-hour toll-free hotline at: 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or visit www.ice.gov.

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