Over 75 people were arrested and more will be criminally charged as part of a joint operation targeting gun, drug and property crimes in San Francisco and San Mateo counties, Bay Area, state and federal law enforcement officials announced Thursday.
The two-year effort, titled "Operation Cold Day," led to the largest number of arrest warrants issued in the history of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, according to Jill Snyder, ATF special agent in charge of the bureau's San Francisco division.
The operation began in the summer of 2015 after a spate of Zipcar thefts in San Francisco, officials said. The California Highway Patrol and San Francisco District Attorney's Office reached out to other jurisdictions and eventually assembled a team led by the ATF that included the California Highway Patrol, San Francisco, Redwood City, San Bruno and Daly City police departments, and the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office.
"This is really law enforcement at its best," San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón said. "This is everyone coming together, putting your egos at the door, not being concerned who's going to get credit for what."
Snyder said the operation began by targeting people known to have "street gang affiliations, violent criminal histories and those who were conducting firearms and narcotics trafficking," and it involved undercover officers.
This week, more than 1,000 law enforcement officials from around the country served arrest and search warrants in the Bay Area. Snyder said the operation resulted in the recovery of 48 stolen vehicles, the purchase or seizure of more than 100 guns and the confiscation of drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and prescription narcotics.
"Through communication and coordination among the federal, state and local partners, we were able to interrupt supply chains of narcotics and illegal firearms at multiple levels simultaneously," said U.S. Attorney Brian Stretch.
Of the 115 arrest warrants issued, 42 are for defendants facing federal gun and drug charges. The largest share of state defendants are being prosecuted in San Mateo County, where District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said 48 people face felony charges. The number of San Francisco defendants was not immediately available.
None of the San Mateo defendants face charges for violent crimes, but law enforcement officials involved said the arrests will prevent and deter violence.
"It has to do with the impact on the community that might be thinking of engaging in this kind of conduct," Wagstaffe said. "We already know that word on the street is that this is not a game."
"Any time you have people running around with stolen guns, that by definition is a gateway to violence," Gascón said. "People do not use stolen guns to go to the movies. They use it to commit armed robberies, to assault people, to kill people."
A San Francisco DA's investigator suggested the name "Operation Cold Day" as a joke about the feasibility of such a large investigation involving so many agencies, by saying it would be "a cold day in you-know-where before an operation like this would come together," Gascón said.