- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 7, 2005

More than 700 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, including eight SWAT teams, have been deployed to Hurricane Katrina-ravaged New Orleans to restore order and protect the city from well-armed criminal gangs that ignited a frenzy of looting, killings, assaults, rapes, carjackings and burglaries.

The ICE agents are patrolling the city’s streets — working with the New Orleans Police Department and other federal, state and local agencies — to stop further violence, secure areas that have been looted and provide security for rescue workers and others who continue to be shot at by gang members. Agents also have been dispatched to other hurricane-damaged areas of the Gulf Coast to help restore order.

A number of personnel from the U.S. Border Patrol and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) also have been dispatched to the area.

“ICE employees are in the affected areas to save lives, protect lives and provide security to the recovery effort,” ICE spokesman Dean Boyd said. “Specifically, ICE’s goals are to support local authorities in securing New Orleans and other affected communities and to provide security to federal rescue and recovery efforts.”

Mr. Boyd said no specific federal charges have been brought by the agents in the region, although numerous arrests have been made on state and local charges, mostly weapons violations.

“Right now, our involvement almost exclusively has been in conjunction with the New Orleans Police Department, and they’ve made a number of arrests,” he said. “We have been preoccupied with restoring order, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be federal charges in the future.”

Much of the violence began at the Louisiana Superdome and the New Orleans Convention Center, where people who did not or could not evacuate the city were told to go. Authorities said many of the crimes committed at the stadium and the center were against the most defenseless: the elderly and children — including the rape and killing of two young girls.

The agents now in New Orleans and other Gulf Coast areas make up a consolidated force from all components of ICE, including more than 360 special agents from the ICE Office of Investigations, more than 200 officers from ICE Federal Protective Service (FPS) and more than 110 officers from ICE Office of Detention and Removal Operations.

The agency also has deployed four mobile command centers with communications equipment, uplink capabilities and supplies to assist in the exchange of information in locations without communications; two mobile repeaters and related equipment to enhance law-enforcement communication in areas without communications; nine detention and removal buses; and 13 transportation vans.

Mr. Boyd said the agency has established command centers in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, La., to coordinate and facilitate communications with federal, state and local officials working on hurricane response.

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