Skip to comments.America's Most Dangerous Gang
Posted on 06/11/2005 8:54:12 AM PDT by Calpernia
Spreading from El Salvador to L.A. and across the United States, Mara Salvatrucha 13 is increasingly well organized and deadly.
Within one hour, two people were found murdered miles apart in suburban Nassau County, N.Y. After an intensive investigation, police officials learned the murders were the work of the violent street gang Mara Salvatrucha 13. It also soon became apparent the gang was sending a bold message to its members and associates. That message: If you are not loyal, you are dead.
But there was another message in the brutal slayings for the people of Long Island. And that message was that gang violence had moved into the upper middle class enclaves of the Island, into the kinds of communities where the locals assume that crime is somebody elses problem.
Mara Salvatrucha 13 (MS-13) is unfortunately becoming everybodys problem. This plague that came to Long Island from El Salvador by way of the streets of Los Angeles follows the same migratory patterns as the Salvadoran immigrant community that it preys upon, fanning out across the United States from ethnic enclaves in California.
Until recently, MS-13 wasnt that big a player in East Coast gang culture. The reason for its weak position in the East Coast crime world was obvious: It wasnt very well organized. MS-13 was comprised of a group of cliques that operated independently of each other.
No more. Law enforcement officials now report that gang members from across the country have come together to unite affiliated groups up and down the East Coast. The leadership for these cliques is now coming from as far away as California and even from El Salvador.
Robert Hart, senior agent in charge with the FBI, says that when individual groups of MS-13 unite, the results can be devastating. The cliques, instead of operating independently of each other, are beginning to come together, Hart explains. The difference is by doing that, obviously you have a much tighter organization, much stronger structures and, instead of having various cliques doing whatever they want, wherever they want, there is one individual who is the leader and is able to control the payment of dues and the criminal acts they engage in. The result is very, very similar to what you would see in what we refer to as traditional organized criminal families.
Los Angeles and New York law enforcement and even politicians are aware of the impact of MS-13 on their streets and on their crime statistics. So theyve taken action. The results are usually not stellar, but at least these cities have recognized that MS-13 is a problem. Unfortunately, the leadership of MS-13 is not stupid. Once the heat comes down hard in L.A. and New York, they head for new turf, choosing Midwestern and Southern and suburban cities where gangs are not an issue and local officials and authorities are in denial.
And once MS-13 takes hold in a community, it grows fast. The gang reportedly has some 300 members in suburban Long Island. A few years back it didnt have any.
Once MS-13 shows up on the radar, some local officials and authorities will take action. In Nassau County, for example, a joint gang task force headed by the FBI and comprised of local police departments, has arrested 16 leaders of MS-13. They were charged with two murders, assault, conspiracy, and firearms violations.
Such investigations arent easy because MS-13 has a pretty strident zero-tolerance policy toward anyone who informs the cops of their activities.
Court papers reveal that one of the Nassau County defendants was captured in a secretly recorded telephone conversation detailing how he killed a male victim because he had provided law enforcement officials with information and that he had put one in his chest and three in the head. In another recorded conversation, a second defendant said he killed a young female because, in part, she had also provided information to law enforcement.
The senseless violence of MS-13 has shocked the local citizens of Nassau County, so the Nassau County Executive appointed a gang czar to deal with the increasing gang problem.
A seasoned, dedicated officer, the new czar, in reality, will find it difficult to accomplish what he has been mandated to do. His department, like many across the nation, is at its lowest staffing levels in recent history, and he has been given no additional personnel or resources to combat the problem. The public was placated by the appointment, but while politicians put Band-Aids on deep cuts, the problem continues to escalate on Long Island.
And Long Island is not alone. Nationally, police departments are dealing with the surge in violence emanating from MS-13 members.
In Charlotte, N.C., 53 gang members were arrested as part of Operation Fed Up, which targeted MS-13 members. Officials in the medium-sized Southern city say MS-13 has been involved in at least 11 murders in the Charlotte area since 2000. And with a membership estimated at 200, MS-13 is by far Charlottes largest gang.
Some 400 miles north of Charlotte, the northern Virginia and southern Maryland communities around Washington, D.C., have become MS-13 turf. Local authorities estimate that there are between 5,000 and 6,000 MS-13 members in the metropolitan area.
And where MS-13 goes, violence follows. In July 2003, an 18-year-old federal witness was stabbed to death; last May, a 16-year-old boy had his hands almost completely chopped off with a machete; and a week later a 17-year-old was shot and murdered. All three crimes were tied to MS-13 members.
The rapid increase in MS-13 activity along the corridor between Charlotte and D.C. is simply explained by Det. Tim Jolly, a gang specialist with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. The area has the nations second highest population of Salvadoran immigrants.
Gang of Chameleons
One of the more unusual aspects of MS-13 when compared to other street gangs is that it is extremely flexible in its activity. While some gangs are only into drugs, MS-13 will do any crime at any time.
Sgt. George Norris, supervisor of the gang unit in the Prince Georges County (Md.) Police Department, says MS-13 doesnt sling drugs in his jurisdiction. We see mostly citizen robberies, auto theft, shootings and cuttings, and homicides, he says, adding that drug sales by MS-13 may be just a matter of time.
Violent and Vicious
When MS-13 moves into a new community it tends to announce its presence with violence. The same can be true when a new leader takes over the local cliques.
Norris says gang members from other areas had once been able to join the new gang by simply being jumped in. But now that new leaders have moved into Prince Georges County and consolidated the cliques, the gangs local culture has become more violent and vicious.
According to one of our informers, things have changed, says Norris. Now in order to get your letters or clique [symbols] tattooed on you, you have to also put in some violent act to show your commitment.
And MS-13 violence is not restricted to civilians, rival gang members, and clique traitors; the gang will go after cops. Threats against police officers, known to gang members as green light notices, have increased so much in the past few years that the Virginia Gang Association has warned officers in Virginia and states to the north and south to be wary of MS-13 members.
Charlotte-Mecklenburgs Jolly says he is aware of the threats against police officers in his community and in Virginia. Prince Georges Countys Norris says hes heard them, too. If you do something to them, their natural response is, OK, Im going to kill you, he says. Or at least they talk like they will.
Norris dismisses some of MS-13s threats, but that doesnt mean that officers should take all MS-13 threats lightly. The gang is extremely violent and it has attacked and will continue to attack anyone who gets in its way. That includes law enforcement officers.
Roots of Evil
Named for La Mara, a street in San Salvador, and the Salvatrucha guerillas who fought in El Salvadors bloody civil war, Mara Salvatrucha 13 was organized in Los Angeles in the late 80s. At first, the gangs primary purpose was to defend Salvadoran immigrants from being preyed upon by other L.A. street gangs.
But like any other street gang that was created to defend a particular ethnic group, MS-13 was quickly perverted until its primary purpose was preying upon the Salvadoran community. It also violently defends its turf against any other gang that might seek to slice away a piece of its action.
Gang members sometimes wear blue and white, colors taken from the national flag of El Salvador. They can also sport numerous body and even face tattoos. However, some members are much less visible and therefore much more dangerous.
Recent reports indicate that MS-13 has expanded from California to Alaska, Oregon, Utah, Texas, Nevada, Oklahoma, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, Washington, D.C., and Florida. The gang has also been exported back to Central America.
Its estimated that there are 36,000 MS-13 members in Honduras alone. In Honduras, according to a March 2004 report prepared by the Washington, D.C.-based, right-wing think tank the Maldon Institute, MS-13 has, with increasing frequency, resorted to leaving a dismembered corpse, complete with a decapitated head, as a calling card. Recently, according to the report, such a grisly message was left with a note for the Honduran president.
The note is supposed to have stated the gangs displeasure with an August 2003 law that made it illegal to be a part of a gang. Under Honduran law gang leaders can be sentenced to prison for up to 12 years and rank-and-file members from six to nine years, just for being in the gang. A gang member can be arrested for simply having a tattoo.
El Salvador has also launched a crackdown on MS-13. A police offensive called Operation Strong-arm has resulted in the arrest of more than 4,000 gang members.
For MS-13, these are small losses. The gang is nothing if not mobile. When it feels heat in the U.S., it moves to another state. When it feels heat in El Salvador and Honduras, it sets up operations in Mexico.
The Maldon Institute report indicates that MS-13 appears to be in control of much of the Mexican border and, in addition to its smuggling and contraband rackets, the gang collects money from illegal immigrants that it helps [move] across the border into the United States.
The ultra-conservative Maldon Institute is known for doomsday predictions when it comes to the U.S.-Mexico border. But there can be no denial that MS-13 is very active in smuggling people, drugs, and guns across the border. And independent reports indicate that many illegal immigrants have been assaulted, robbed, and even raped by MS-13 members.
Mexico is now taking steps to fight back against MS-13. In December, Mexican authorities arrested 224 gang members in response to what they called a threat to national security. Among the arrests were members of MS-13 who were charged with trafficking in drugs and firearms across Mexico and Central America.
Illusion of Cooperation
While some of the Central American countries appear to be cracking down on MS-13, serious problems still exist. And they are being missed by politically correct reporters who want to tout U.S.-Latin American cooperation.
For example, on Long Island, the media was quick to cover an agreement between El Salvador and Suffolk County to share information on MS-13. What the local reporters didnt cover was a much more serious issue. If these gang members commit serious offenses, they can return home, and there is no extradition agreement. And, of course, they are doing so in increasing numbers.
I would say that between Honduras and El Salvador, there are seven or eight people we are seeking to take into custody, says Lt. Dennis Farrell, head homicide investigator for the Nassau County Police Department. Proportionally, if you take that across the country, the numbers are astronomical, the number of people who have probably fled to these two countries.
Farrell says that two gang members who his detectives are looking to arrest for two separate murders are now living in the same town in El Salvador. He calls the situation extremely frustrating. You undertake a very in-depth and comprehensive investigation, pursue all possible leads, build a case, essentially conduct a successful investigation, only to have it thwarted by the fact that after having identified the killer or killers, you are unable, under the present international agreements, to return them to Nassau County to face murder charges.
Even more than that frustration, how about the injustice and sense of desperation on the part of families who have lost loved ones? Where is the measure of justice? There is really no justice for those families, and absent some reworked or new initiative between our state department and those sovereign states, I dont see any change in this condition in the foreseeable future, Farrell adds.
In addition to extradition treaties, many gang investigators believe stricter and more uniform laws are needed here in this country. According to Charlotte-Mecklenburgs Jolly, one of the reasons MS-13 has migrated to the East Coast is the strict anti-gang laws on the West Coast. He also believes that, with the stricter gang laws in Central America, many MS-13 members may be coming back to the United States illegally.
With the number of MS-13 members growing nationwide (some cliques now even accept non-Hispanic members), and the violence escalating, the future for law enforcement appears grim.
They adapt to what the police do, says Prince Georges Countys Norris. They will change the way they operate, depending on the way things are enforced by the police. If there is no enforcement, they will wear their colors and bandanas because in the communities they are in it is common knowledge and the people fear them, so it is a form of intimidation.
Once the police recognize and confront them, they will change and wear different colors from the blue and white, no bandana on their head, maybe now in their pocket, and instead of the number 13 they will wear 67 or 76 because it equals 13. They adapt so it is a continually evolving thing.
While the nation focuses on terrorism, the issue of gang violence has taken a lower priority. But to many, the violent acts of MS-13 members are more of an everyday threat that is being overlooked.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
In the early 1980s, a violent civil war began in El Salvador which would last more than 12 years. Approximately 100,000 people were killed in the war, and more than one million people fled from El Salvador to the U.S. The Salvadorian refugees and immigrants initially settled primarily in southern California and Washington, D.C.
Some of the refugees and immigrants had ties with 'La Mara', a violent street gang from El Salvador. Others had been members of paramilitary groups like the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMNL) during the civil war. FMNL was made up of Salvadorian peasants who were trained as guerilla fighters. Many were adept at using explosives, firearms, and booby traps.
Most of the Salvadorian refugees settled in the established Hispanic neighborhoods of the "Rampart" area of Los Angeles. However, Salvadorians were not readily accepted into the Los Angeles Hispanic community, and were frequently targeted by local Hispanic gangs. As a result, in the late 1980s, some refugees and refugee members of La Mara and FMNL formed what is now known as the Mara Salvatrucha (MS) street gang in Los Angeles. Like many other street gangs, MS initially formed for protection, but quickly developed a reputation for being organized and extremely violent. MS membership continues to be fed by refugees from groups like FMNL.
Since its inception in California and Washington, DC, Mara Salvatrucha has expanded into Oregon, Alaska, Texas, Nevada, Utah, Oklahoma, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, Florida, Canada, and Mexico. MS is unique in that, unlike traditional U.S. street gangs, it maintains active ties with MS members and factions in El Salvador. Mara Salvatrucha is literally an international gang.
Mara Salvatrucha gang members maintain contact between groups in the United States and El Salvador for several specific reasons. In El Salvador, a hand grenade sells for $1.00-$2.00 U.S. currency and an M-16 rifle will sell for approximately $200.00-$220.00 U.S. dollars. This communication and alliance provides a mechanism for MS gang members to access military-style munitions and also establishes a network to traffic illegal firearms into the United States.
Although military weapons seem to be readily available to this gang, street intelligence indicates they often have difficulty obtaining handguns, which are not readily available in El Salvador. This creates a demand for small arms by MS members in the U.S. and El Salvador. This demand is so high that MS members will often take handguns as payment for drug transactions. The guns are then sent back to El Salvador, or used in the United States.
MS is also involved in exporting stolen U.S. cars to South America. The cars are often traded for drugs when dealing with cartels. It is estimated that 80% of the cars driven in El Salvador were stolen in the United States. Car theft is a lucrative business for MS.
The Mara Salvatrucha gang is involved in a variety of criminal enterprises. As with members of other gangs, MS members seem willing to commit almost any crime, but MS gang members tend to have a higher level of criminal involvement than other gang members. MS members have been involved in burglaries, auto thefts, narcotic sales, home invasion robberies, weapons smuggling, car jacking, extortion, murder, rape, witness intimidation, illegal firearm sales, car theft and aggravated assaults. In terms of drug trafficking activities, common drugs sold by MS members include cocaine, marijuana, heroin, and methamphetamine. Mara Salvatrucha gang members have even placed a tax on prostitutes and non-gang member drug dealers who are working in MS "turf." Failure to pay up will most likely result in violence.
Originally, only Salvadorians could become members of Mara Salvatrucha. However, MS now includes members from Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico. Mara Salvatrucha also has a few African-American members. MS has broken the race barrier for membership, but most new members are still selected because of their ethnic (Central American) background. The majority of MS gang members are between the ages of 11 and 40 years old.
Mara Salvatrucha members identify themselves with tattoos such as the number 13," or trece in Spanish. MS gang members will also use the Spanish word sureño, meaning "southerner" to identify themselves. Sometimes sureño is abbreviated to SUR. These terms make reference to the fact that MS gang members like to claim they are from southern California as opposed to northern California, and are rivals with northern California gangs. Often, this rivalry is taken outside the state of California. Additionally, Mara Salvatrucha gang members have several ongoing rivalries with large southern California gangs, including the 18th Street gang, and in California, commonly attack 18th Street gang members on sight. There are many Hispanic gangs, including MS, which use the number 13," and the terms sureno and SUR as identifiers, including street/prison gangs outside of California. Thus, it is important to identify specific tattoos used by the Mara Salvatrucha gang, which include M or MS, in addition to the 13 or SUR identification. Another common tattoo seen is Salvadorian Pride. There is also a good chance that the member will also have the name of his particular clique tattooed on his/her body. Other tattoos encountered with MS members have included pentagrams and other occult symbols. These can be confusing when found in conjunction with gang tattoos and can cause misconceptions of Satanic involvement by the gang. The most common hand sign used by MS members is the letter M formed by using three fingers and pointing the hand downward. This handsign can resemble the pitchfork sign used by Folk/People Nation gangs from the Midwest, and can be made with the fingers pointing up or down. The symbols used as tattoos are also used in graffiti and personal writings.
In general, Mara Salvatrucha members show no fear of law enforcement. They are not easily intimidated and frequently act defiantly. Mara Salvaltrucha gang members have been responsible for the execution of three federal agents and numerous shootings of law enforcement officers across the country. MS gang members have been known to booby-trap their drug stash houses using antipersonnel grenades on the assumption that these structures will be searched by law enforcement. MS members at one time often bragged of assaulting law enforcement officers as a means of showing their loyalty and commitment to the gang. However, these claims have never been confirmed. Today, assaults on law enforcement officers are not required for membership, but are always an option. Thus, officers dealing with MS members (or any street gang members, for that matter) should always use extreme caution.
Law enforcement and the courts have used two primary methods to deal with criminal activity by MS: arrest/incarceration and deportation. Between April 1994 and August 1995, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) arrested and deported more than 100 MS gang members to El Salvador. Many Mara Salvatrucha gang members are currently in the United States illegally and are concerned about deportation. If a gang member is deported to El Salvador, there is a chance they will be targeted by the Sombra Negra (Black Shadow) death squad. Sombra Negra and similar groups are legendary in Central America. Gangsters and citizens alike believe that the Sombra Negra is made up of rogue cops and military personnel who target unwanted criminals and gang members for vigilante "justice." While the presence of these death squads is officially denied by the governments of Central American countries, many MS members in the U.S. believe these groups exist, and fear that they will be targeted after being deported. Honduran MS gang members have the same fear. Sombra Negra has claimed responsibility for the deaths of several MS gang members in El Salvador. The existence or belief in the existence of these death squads could also be a chief motivation for hardcore MS gang members to come to the United States.
From the title I thought it was about the State Department.
ah...can't we all get along? (/s)
Davey Crockett and Nw_arizona_granny found this excellent article on WHAT is coming over our borders. Pretty scary stuff.
That was funny. ^-^
Thanks for the post.
capture them, send them to army recruiting, and then post them in the middle east.
sorta new french legion. they sent their riff-raff to africa.
I thought it was about the Senate's new "gang of 14."
"The senseless violence of MS-13 has shocked the local citizens of Nassau County, so the Nassau County Executive appointed a gang czar to deal with the increasing gang problem."
Okay, yeah, you can call yourself a gang czar. Just make sure you shoot to kill.
They are only committing crimes Americans are not willing to committ themselves.
those lazy gringos!
In other words, suffering makes divine. And the secular divinity of the proletariat excuses any crime, any pathology.
The Other One has been One upped!
Someone is just not getting it.
Brutal, vicious, but not senseless. It has a definite purpose. To initmidate, eliminate, and establish the gang as top dog on that turf. It establishes every wearer of the tattoo as someone 'not to be messed with'.
So don't mess with them.
Find the tat, shoot the rat.
>>>Why Bush refuses to stop illegal immigration is something I cannot fathom.
I've noticed more and more articles coming out on border patrol who take bribes and businesses that employ the illegals have been getting raided.
Maybe the people that take pay offs that allow the illegal network passage and hosting needs to be stopped first? Catch the facilitors in the act of taking payoffs than control the borders more?
nassau county appoints a gang czar problem solved
in reality the cops in nassau county have let this and other gangs free run on their turf
they know who and where they are and nothing is done about it
it is a big problem in middle and high schools and it is not confined to just to the less affluent school districts
Diversity is our strength, what difference does technical documentation status make?
Besides, the MS-13 are only coming to do the rapes and murders Americans are too lazy to do.
Eastie gang linked to al-Qaeda
Boston Herald ^ | January 5, 2005 | Michele McPhee
Posted on 01/05/2005 7:01:55 AM EST by Straight Vermonter
A burgeoning East Boston-based street gang made up of alleged rapists and machete-wielding robbers has been linked to the al-Qaeda terrorist network, prompting Boston police to ``turn up the heat'' on its members, the Herald has learned.
MS-13, which stands for La Mara Salvatrucha, is an extremely violent organization with roots in El Salvador, and boasts more than 100 ``hardcore members'' in East Boston who are suspected of brutal machete attacks, rapes and home invasions. There are hundreds more MS-13 gangsters in towns along the North Shore, said Boston police Sgt. Detective Joseph Fiandaca, who has investigated the gang since it began tagging buildings in Maverick Square in 1995.
In recent months, intelligence officials in Washington have warned national law enforcement agencies that al-Qaeda terrorists have been spotted with members of MS-13 in El Salvador, prompting concerns the gang may be smuggling Islamic fundamentalist terrorists into the country. Law enforcement officials have long believed that MS-13 controls alien smuggling routes along Mexico. The warning is being taken seriously in East Boston, where Raed Hijazi, an al-Qaeda operative charged with training the suicide bombers in the attack on the USS Cole, lived and worked, prosecutors have charged.
Also, the commercial jets that hurtled into the World Trade Center towers in New York City were hijacked from Logan International Airport.
``The terrorist aspect, especially when you think in terms of 9/11 and how intent these terrorists are, will turn the heat up on our efforts with MS-13,'' Fiandaca said. MS-13 members congregate near the Maverick Square train station sporting white and blue bandannas, their skin inked with spider webs and ``laugh now, cry later'' clown faces.
``MS-13 is the most dangerous gang in the area,'' Fiandaca said. ``They are big. They are mobile. Now they have a terrorist connection.''
The theory that Salvadoran criminals manage to smuggle people over the border was bolstered this month when two Boston men described as MS-13 leaders were spotted on the North Shore days before Christmas - a year after they were deported by Boston Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigators for gang-related crimes.
One of the two men, Elmer ``Tiger'' Tejada, 24, who had been deported after being convicted of a slew of crimes, including attempted murder charges for hurling a machete at Chelsea cops, was busted in Lynn on New Year's Day. Tejada is described as ``an original MS-13 member'' from East Boston, sources said.
A manhunt has been launched for the second fugitive, who is in the country illegally, Boston police said.
The growing number of MS-13 members, and the degree of violence the gang engages in, prompted investigators from 14 local and national agencies to form the North Shore Gang Intelligence task force in 2000, Fiandaca said.
Among the most notorious local crimes attributed to MS-13 was the gang rape of two deaf girls, one 14, the other 17, in a Somerville park in 2002. Three MS-13 gang members were charged in the brutal rapes, during which one victim was knocked from her wheelchair before the assault.