More than 80 firearms were seized Wednesday morning and 16 people were arrested in a law enforcement operation targeting the Eastside Crips street gang.
Search warrants were served at nine Tucson locations, primarily on the east side, Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villaseñor said at a news conference.
The Tucson Police Department, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and an Arizona Department of Public Safety taskforce carried out the operation.
More than 250 law enforcement personnel were involved in the operation, said Sgt. Pete Dugan, a police spokesman.
“It was very resource intensive, but because of the violence of this gang, we thought it was necessary,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Thomas G. Atteberry, who noted more than 80 weapons were seized during the searches.
“This criminal syndicate has operated all over Tucson, but primarily on the east side of town,” Villaseñor said. “We have connections with those individuals to several shootings and homicides in Tucson. Almost all of the time they are armed.”
During a nearly yearlong investigation, officials have linked associates and members of the Eastside Crips to shootings, trafficking, money laundering and other crimes, Villaseñor said.
The criminal enterprise spreads from Tucson to as far away as Florida and New York, Villaseñor said.
Of the 16 arrests made early Wednesday, 15 were in Tucson. One suspect who has ties to the Eastside Crips was arrested in California, Dugan said.
Those arrested are facing various charges, including racketeering; money laundering; conspiracy; participating in or assisting a criminal street gang or criminal syndicate; misconduct involving weapons; possession, use, administration, acquisition, sale, manufacture or transportation of dangerous drugs, narcotics, prescription drugs or marijuana; illegally controlling an enterprise; and illegally conducting an enterprise.
The names of those arrested are not expected to be released until next week because additional arrests are pending, Dugan said.
The cases will be prosecuted by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office in Tucson.
The presence of the Eastside Crips was first noted in Tucson by police in 2004, Villaseñor said.