President Donald Trump has come out strong to denounce the transnational MS-13 gang last week. He has promised measures to combat the notorious gang, including pushing congress to add thousands more federal immigration agents. Trump also minced no words and called the violent street gang members “animals” while praising police officers who go after them.
Trump also urged law enforcement officials to be tough on suspected gang members. At the start of his term, the president created a task force charged with finding ways to eliminate transnational gangs and criminal organizations via an executive order.
Brentwood, N.Y. has also directly experienced the devastation wrought by MS-13. The gang is behind at least 17 murders in the past 18 months in Suffolk County, Long Island including the brutal killings of two teenage girls in September 2016 and the murders of four young men in April.
Also called Mara Salvatrucha, MS-13 is a nationwide problem that has posed problems for local law enforcement agencies. Local officials are exerting efforts to combat the gang, and have come out with several measures including:
1. Partnership with federal authorities
Steve Levy, the former county executive of Suffolk County put together a task force composed of Suffolk County police officers and federal officers. He said there’s a great deal of synergy between local officers and the feds. He stated: “The locals bring the block-by-block, member-by-member information that can be shared with the feds. The feds bring the resources and the strict penalties that the locals otherwise wouldn’t have at their disposal.” As a result, the impact of MS-13 in the are has “substantially diminished. “ He added that he couldn’t see a single community in the nation where a local, federal partnership would not work.
2. Share information among jurisdictions
Maryland’s state attorney for Montgomery County John McCarthy said it’s “essential” for police to share intelligence on MS-13 with other jurisdiction and states. He said: “No community standing alone…can solve the issue by themselves. The gangs are too large, they’re too transient and they do, in fact, move from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.”
3. Target at-risk young people
The gang notoriously recruits young people in middle and high school, mostly in immigrant communities, who are at higher risk of violent retribution if they later decide to leave the gang. McCarthy said that in his county, the average age of recruitment is 13 to 14 years old. By age 16, some gang members are already giving orders for murders.
McCarthy wants to have more community outreach efforts especially in immigrant areas that target high school-age youths. He said: “We need to get these kids before gang members get to these kids.”
4. Establish a gang registry
Levy proposed that local governments should consider establishing a gang registry which would include known gang members who have been convicted of a crime. Anyone added to the registry would be prohibited from associating with other gang members.
5. Work with immigrant community
Law enforcement would never be able to find and arrest MS-13 criminals without the cooperation of immigrants who have not committed crimes.
6. Monitor social media
Social media has become a tool for gang members to target rivals, recruit, secretly communicate and thwart law enforcement efforts to gather intelligence and build cases against them.
7. Enforce stricter immigration laws
Levy put it simply: “The laws are all there. All that’s needed is a will to enforce them. And the new federal administration has the will to do it.” Levy also supported ending sanctuary city policies- which limit how much local law enforcement can give cooperation with federal immigration authorities - and enforcing laws that would put an end to federal funding to cities with such policies such as Kate’s Law.