SAN ANTONIO --At a news conference, the picture on display looked like a school graduation photo. But the orange jumpsuits aren’t school uniforms. This is a “who’s who” of the latest gang members law officers rounded-up.
“There have been lives saved by putting these people behind bars, taking them off the street and disrupting their drug and weapons trafficking,” said San Antonio Police Chief William McManus, whose department was one of several agencies involved in “Operation Triple-Beam Target Orejon.”
The 212 suspects were cuffed for crimes ranging from murder to illegal drug trafficking to sexual assaults.
Half of them hail from the Orejon gang: a gang that got its start in prison but has quickly spread outside the iron bars, gaining ground in San Antonio.
Police say gang members bodies are littered with tattoos: with the “210” zip code, a Spurs symbol, or a combination of them amid Playboy bunnies and cash symbols.
Bexar County Sheriff Amadeo Ortiz said, “We noticed they were younger and getting more ruthless than the older gangs that we typically saw at the jail. They started giving us all kinds of problems. So that tipped us off that something was changing in the environment.”
And the changes included the gang’s victims, who were no longer just local citizens.
U.S. Marshal Robert Almonte said, “Much of this criminal activity was increasing in the tourist areas in San Antonio, to include the Riverwalk area. They were committing crimes wherever and whenever they could.”
The 4 months of raids by law enforcement netted more than 3-dozen guns, $82,000 in cash, and a combined 17 kilos of cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana.
And a promise by San Antonio law officers of more arrests to come to keep the Orejones from becoming better organized.
“We are not going to sit back idly. We are going to continue to be proactive. We are going to continue to work as a team: federal, state, county and local law enforcement and not allow these types of things to go on,” said McManus.