Santa Maria police officers and federal agents arrested 16 people last week allegedly involved with the transnational street gang — Mara Salvaturcha or MS-13 — and allegedly culpable for the city’s recent surge in homicides. Santa Maria police chief Ralph Martin said all 16 are from El Salvador or Honduras. Martin declined to delve into the specifics of “Operation Matador” but he said at least six homicides were prevented because of their police work.
“We know who they are, where they are, what vehicles they drive,” Martin told reporters. “We know what they had for lunch yesterday.” Arrests were made in Santa Maria, Bakersfield, Oxnard, and Columbus, Ohio. Among the charges are conspiracy to commit murder with conspiracy to be active in a criminal street gang. Last year, 13 of the 18 murders in Santa Barbara County occurred in Santa Maria.