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Gang sweep nabs 10
Forsyth sheriff's office part of statewide sting
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Forsyth County News
The Forsyth County Sheriff's Office has arrested 10 people, three of whom face local charges, as part of "Community Shield," a statewide initiative to round up gang members and associates.
Special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement led the effort, which targeted suspected gang members in seemingly all corners of the state, from Dalton to Albany and Atlanta to Savannah.
Tom Little is a gang intelligence coordinator for the local sheriff's office. Among his many duties, he gathers information on gang members and their activities  in Forsyth County and shares it with other divisions of the department.
Little said that criteria used in the enforcement sweep earlier this month required that those arrested be adults, illegal immigrants and confirmed gang members.
"If they met those criteria, they were taken into custody," Little said.
Information Little gathered was used in sweeps June 2 and 5 in Forsyth County.
Among those arrested were: Angel Aguilary Perez, 22; Bonifacio Guevarra Castro, 18; and Dicidoro Salinas Gonzales, 23.
All three suspects are being held at the Forsyth County Detention Center on forgery charges.
Capt. Ron Freeman, commander of the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office south precinct, said the sweep was "our biggest, single enforcement action we've ever had against known gang members."
Freeman explained that local and state authorities have no authority to enforce immigration laws. But, he said, Perez, Castro and Dicidoro had false identification documents, an offense on which local officials can take action.  
In addition to the forgery charges, the three suspects face federal prosecution and deportation.
The remaining seven suspects, who do not face local charges, were placed into federal custody for deportation. Their identities have not been released.
According to information provided by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, more than 100 gang members and associates were arrested statewide.
Little said that a majority of those arrested are members of gangs Sur 13 and Vatos Locos, while others are members of 18th Street and Disciples.
Deputies from every division of the sheriff's office, including jail staff, uniform patrol, criminal investigations and special operations, participated in the operation.
Little said he works closely with the Spanish-speaking community in Forsyth and has had to take steps to clear up misconceptions since the arrests.
"We've done a lot of work with the community reassuring them that this was not a sweep to get people not involved in criminal activity," he said.
Freeman said working with agencies like ICE is a rewarding partnership for the sheriff's office and gives local authorities credibility.
He said participating in such enforcement sweeps sends a message "particularly to gang members. They're not only worrying about us, but getting federally prosecuted and possibly deported."
"It puts them totally on the defensive," he said.