BETHESDA, Md. - Illegal immigration and gang activity are back in the spotlight after a recent roundup of illegal immigrants in D.C. and Virginia. Meanwhile in Montgomery County in Maryland, police said they are dealing with a huge increase in gang-related crime.
Montgomery County police looked at the data from the first six months of this year to the first half of 2017 and found violent gang-related crime is up 67 percent, gang-related robberies are up 36 percent while gang-related assaults are up 43 percent.
Who are the gangs preying on? Montgomery County Police Assistant Chief Marcus Jones said the victims of these crimes are immigrants themselves, but not always.
"Some of those individuals are immigrants, they may be legal and some of them are illegal,” said Jones. “It causes concern for us in reporting incidents as well as investigating those incidents. But at the end of the day, there are many individuals that are being sometimes victimized by this that are not at all immigrants.”
The spike this year comes after U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) put Montgomery County on a list of jurisdictions that have declined to honor ICE’s detainer requests last year.
Meanwhile, ICE recently conducted Operation Eagle’s Shield this month that led to arrest of 132 illegal immigrants with previous criminal convictions.
D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton said she is concerned ICE is taking people into custody whose only crime was entering the country illegally.
"That is not America and in this city, we are doing all we can to get these people out of jail and to keep these raids from occurring,” said Norton. “We have got to begin right here in the House and that is why I want ICE to come in and see me.”
However, ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations Washington Field Office Director Russell Hott said the individuals arrested in the enforcement operation had criminal records and did not belong on the streets.
“Operation Eagle’s Shield was designed as an enforcement action to target convicted criminal aliens, dangerous gang members, dangerous violent felons, sexual predators and remove those individuals from our communities,” said Hott.
ICE said among those arrested included leaders of the MS-13 gang and a number of sex offenders. Of the arrestees, ICE reports that 131 are men and one is a woman.