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GANGS IN AMERICA...AND BEYOND:
FBI Exec Outlines Anti-Gang Strategy to Congress

04/20/05

Chris SweckerTurns out, even gangs have gone global. On Wednesday, the House Committee on International Relations' Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere held a hearing on rising gang violence across Latin America—and how it's not only destabilizing the region but also fueling crime and violence here in the U.S.

Testifying for the FBI was our top criminal investigative executive—Chris Swecker. He provided plenty of detail on the growing menace of gangs and our growing efforts to defeat them, including a task force specifically focused on disrupting and dismantling Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13. A few highlights:

The threat:

  • "Today, gangs are more violent, more organized, and more widespread than ever before."
  • "There are approximately 30,000 gangs, with 800,000 members, impacting 2,500 communities across the U.S."
  • Latino gangs are sowing violence and crime in big cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York, but are also spreading to rural and suburban areas.
  • The violent gang MS-13—composed mainly of Central American immigrants from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala—"has a significant presence in Northern Virginia, New York, California, Texas, as well as places as disparate and widespread as Oregon City, Oregon, and Omaha, Nebraska." MS-13 is estimated to have some 8,000 to 10,000 hardcore members—and is growing increasingly sophisticated, widespread, and violent.

Our response:

  • A new National Gang Strategy: it identifies the gangs posing the greatest danger to American communities and targets them with the coordinated resources of law enforcement and the same federal racketeering statutes, intelligence, and investigative techniques used to defeat organized crime. See the full testimony for a complete list of the gangs with connections to Central America and Mexico that we are targeting.
  • More Safe Streets Violent Gang Task Forces (SSVGTF): from 78 to 108 and 20 more planned. Since 1996, the work of the SSVGTFs have led to nearly 20,000 convictions and the dismantling of more than 250 gangs.
  • A National Gang Intelligence Center: it will coordinate the national collection of gang intelligence and help us share it with our partners around the globe.
  • The new MS-13 National Gang Task Force (NGTF): it's helping to speed the flow of information and intelligence on MS-13 nationally and internationally and to coordinate investigations.

In the words of Subcommittee Chairman Dan Burton, "It is clearly in everyone's best interest that we address this problem now, and end the threat of transnational gang violence in the Western Hemisphere."

Links: Read the full testimony | House Press Release