Forty-three people with alleged ties to drug and weapons trafficking, robberies and other crimes were taken into custody on Tuesday as part of the multi-agency sweep known as "Operation Second Sole," according to authorities.
San Diego police Lt. Kevin Ammon said, "Many of the suspects arrested today have significant criminal histories and were considered to be armed and dangerous. The success of today's operation rid the county of a serious threat to the safety and security of our citizens."
Federal, state and local law enforcement personnel served arrest and search warrants throughout the San Diego region Tuesday morning to capture the suspects and "disrupt their criminal enterprises," the lieutenant said.
SDPD officials and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives launched the operation "to interrupt and prevent dangerous individuals from committing acts of violence in furtherance of narcotics trafficking," said John Torres, special agent in charge of the ATF's Southern California division.
"As a result of this joint effort, suspects implicated in criminal activity ranging from homicide to armed robbery have been taken into custody along with seized contraband, including illegal firearms and methamphetamine," Torres said.
"There's 365 pounds of cocaine, there's 46 pounds of marijuana [and] there's 4 pounds of heroin," said San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne.
Police also found more than $800,000 worth of guns.
Authorities said the biggest triumph comes in what police stopped: a kidnapping and the murder they say that would have followed.
"We knew that a kidnapping was being planned," said Lansdowne. "We interrupted that kidnapping and thereby avoiding the kidnapping itself and what we felt was going to be a homicide."
On Tuesday morning, many people living in a South Bay neighborhood woke up to police tape, SWAT Officers and a lot of noise.
Police and undercover officers could be seen going in and out of a house in the 2600 block of Chadwell Avenue in Palm City.
Neighbors said they heard at least three flash bangs and also saw smoke coming from a window where it appeared investigators had launched some sort of device into the home.
"Whole house looked like it was smoking, maybe it was tear gas or something, that's all we seen," said neighbor Randy Gramer.
Gramer said it sounded like a shotgun blast, but was likely the sound of a flash bang.
Four men were taken from the home in handcuffs, and investigators took pictures of each of them. At least two were taken away in patrol cars. Police could also be seen thoroughly searching several parked cars.
A man who lives in the house said he didn't see police confiscate anything, but two of his roommates were taken into custody. Several adults and a young child live in the home.
Criminal law expert David Steinberg told 10News busts like this one are good, but the perception they leave can be devastating.
"Because of a criminal element in the community, law-abiding people leave," said Steinberg. "You have vacant houses, which are the perfect location for further criminal activity."
However, if South Bay residents are worried about cartel activity, they have not shown it by moving out. The population in the area has remained steady since 2000 at about 450,000 people.
"I have no doubt that you have a change in the composition of the neighborhood very close to the border and this has a detrimental effect," said Steinberg.
Taking part in the effort, along with San Diego police and the ATF, were U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, San Diego County District Attorney's Office, U.S. Attorney's Office, U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, California Border Protection Alliance Group- HIDTA, San Diego County Sheriff's Department and Chula Vista Police Department.
About half of those 43 are Mexican nationals, but there are no plans to extradite any of them back to Mexico. All of them will face state or federal charges.
"In San Diego County, we stand together to fight against the cross border violence and we won't let it come across here," San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis.
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