afternoon, it's great to be here with you. We in the FBI are
glad to be working with so many different partners toward
a common goal-from Chief Bratton and Sheriff Baca here
in Los Angeles to our friends who have traveled here from
other cities and nations. We deeply appreciate your commitment
to combating gang violence, and we deeply appreciate your
you in this room already have a solid working knowledge of
gangs. Unfortunately, this comes from fighting them in your
own cities. And so today, I want to give you a quick overview
of the national gang problem from the FBI's perspective, and
talk about what we are doing together to combat it.
I want to tell you a story.
September, a mother was working in an outdoor market near
MacArthur Park here in Los Angeles. Her newborn son was beside
her in his stroller.
steps away, members of a clique of the 18th Street Gang approached
one of the market's street vendors. The gang claimed this
man was selling his goods in what they insisted was "their"
territory. Over a period of time, they had been demanding
the vendor pay them "rent." The man consistently
refused. And so that night, they simply opened fire on him.
he survived. But one of the bullets missed its mark, and struck
and killed the baby in his stroller. His name was Luis Angel
Garcia. He was only 23 days old.
is just one of many heartbreaking stories. I'm sure you have
all seen more than your fair share of them, which is why you
are here today.
fitting that our conference takes place here. Los Angeles
is ground zero for modern gang activity. Many gangs were born
here, a generation ago. But they are no longer limited to
Los Angeles. Like a cancer, gangs are spreading to communities
violence has become a part of the daily lives of teachers
and taxi drivers, police officers and pastors, parents and
look at the bus stop shooting last Wednesday at the corner
of Central and Vernon Avenues. A gunman opened fire with a
semi-automatic. He apparently missed his intended victims,
but shot and wounded eight others, including five children.
Villaraigosa put it, "While no one died yesterday, the
bullets unleashed shot through the core of the entire community."
seeing scenes like this play out around our countries. In
too many neighborhoods, too many young people are recruited
into gangs. They fall into a life of crime, drugs, and violence.
They shoot each other, with no regard to the innocent bystanders
caught in the crossfire. Crime and violence are not confined
to their cliques, but have a chilling effect on entire communities.
are now over 30,000 gangs in communities throughout the United
States, and over 800,000 gang members. To further complicate
things, there is no "typical" gangwhich means
there is no one-size fits all approach to combating them.
are comprised of just three or four individuals whose sole
ambition is to control drug sales on their corner. Others
have hi-tech hierarchies and maintain their own websites.
And for every highly organized gang enterprise, there are
hundreds of local gangs wreaking havoc on street corners and
MS-13 as an example. MS-13 was born in Los Angelesand
still has a significant presence herebut has spread
across 42 states and at least four foreign countries. It is
now truly a transnational gang.
seeing a tremendous amount of MS-13 activity in cities such
as Baltimore, Houston, New York, Washington, D.C., and even
Omaha. But we are also seeing a rise in MS-13 activity in
Atlanta, Denver, Indianapolis, and New Orleans.
members are involved in a wide range of criminal activities,
from drug distribution to theft to homicide. They sometimes
form ad-hoc alliances with other gangs to facilitate their
activities. They communicate with cliques in other states
and other countries.
MS-13 already has as many as 10,000 members. But the gang
is focused on recruiting even more members, and is targeting
middle school and high school students.
assessment, MS-13 is both organized and opportunistic. And
gang members become more dangerous as they continue to grow
in number and to migrate across state and international borders.
at the shooting last week in Charlotte, North Carolina. The
Charlotte-Mecklenburg SWAT Team was serving a search warrant
in a home when suddenly, shots rang out. The brother of the
target allegedly fired upon the officers, who fired back.
Both brothers are suspected members of MS-13.
no one was killed. But this case is a chilling reminder of
the danger law enforcement officers face every day as they
go about their jobs.
gangs are more diverse, more dispersed, and more dangerous.
All of this makes your jobs much more difficult.
look at Los Angeles as one example. The Los Angeles Police
Department has over 9,600 officers. Over 330 of them are assigned
to the Gang Enforcement Divisionand that's not counting
detectives or officers working narcotics. The Los Angeles
Sheriff's Department has over 10,000 sworn deputies. Two hundred
detectives work gang investigations, and 62 Gang Enforcement
Deputies patrol the streets.
in the city of Los Angeles, there are roughly 40,000 subjects
that meet the criteria for gang members, and over 400 gangs.
police and sheriff's deputies have a tremendous amount of
experience when it comes to gangs. They are seasoned and they
are dedicated. But statistically speaking, the ratio of gang
members to police officers is overwhelming. And like all law
enforcement, they are constrained by limitations of personnel,
time, and resources.
where the FBI and our federal partners can help. We can combine
our strengths with those of state and local law enforcement
to tackle gangs as a team.
a national perspective, the FBI focuses its efforts on the
violent gangs that present the greatest multi-jurisdictional
threat. Our traditional approach to combating gangs has been
to go after them as enterprisesmuch like how we tackled
have connections to so many facets of society, from the military
to the prison system. Their tentacles encompass a wide range
of criminal activities, from alien smuggling to mortgage fraud,
and from identity theft to extortion. And they are becoming
increasingly savvy when it comes to technologyespecially
has been to eliminate the leadership of gang enterprises.
Our goal is not just to disrupt their activities, but dismantle
apart a gang is like demolishing a building. Hacking away
at individual walls and beams might damage the building, but
it doesn't destroy it. But using federal drug and racketeering
statutes is akin to dynamiting the foundation. Once the gang's
leadership infrastructure implodes, all members are weakened.
It becomes difficult for the group to operate. Eventually,
our strategy is to prosecute as many gang leaders, members,
and associates as possible so there are no pieces left which
are large enough to allow the gang to rebuild. With this as
our ultimate goal, the FBI brings three assets to the table:
partnerships, intelligence, and federal law.
can easily cross jurisdictions; so must law enforcement. The
most powerful response is a joint response.
the Justice Department's Project Safe Neighborhoods as an
example. Its goal is to reduce violent crime by focusing on
gun violence. The ATF's Violent Crime Impact Teams have taken
the lead, bringing together federal, state, and local law
enforcement and prosecutors to target the "worst of the
worst" offenders and put them behind bars. There are
30 Violent Crime Impact Teams in hot-spots throughout the
country, and they are an outstanding model of interagency
is just the kind of coordination we need to confront gang
violence. When your cities face a rash of homicides or armed
robberies, you have to act quickly. Your immediate concern
is making sure the gang members don't get away with murderor
think they haveand become emboldened to commit more
crimes. You may not be able to devote the time or the resources
to initiate a long-term investigation to disrupt that gangbut
efforts provide a balance between an immediate response and
a long-term solution. Together, we can cut off the criminals
from the street level up. And we can use intelligence and
information sharing to dismantle the group from the top down.
why the FBI has 141 Safe Streets Task Forces dedicated to
violent gangs across the country10 more than we had
a year ago. We have over 630 Agents dedicated to gang investigations,
and over 1,150 state and local Task Force Officers. Agents
and police work in lock-step, sharing information and investigating
cases as a team. And they are having a real impact.
past November, the Safe Streets Task Force here in Los Angeles
arrested 26 members and associates of MS-13, including the
"shot caller" Oscar Chacon, and several top leaders.
in November, the Task Force in Phoenix conducted an operation
that resulted in the arrests of more than 20 gang members
and associates. Charges were brought not just against violent
street gangs, but also against Bulgarian nationals with
links to organized crime and drug trafficking.
December, the Task Force in Houston arrested 22 members
and associates of the Raza Unida Prison Gang and the Aryan
Brotherhood of Texas. They were working together to transport
methamphetamine from Mexico to Corpus Christi, and distribute
it throughout Texas.
to the Safe Streets Task Forces, in 2004, we formed the MS-13
National Gang Task Force. This Task Force can see connections
that might only be visible from the 30,000-foot perspective,
and can help direct and coordinate investigations. They have
already produced significant results, from intelligence products
to multi-national operations.
goes hand-in-hand with partnerships. One good piece of intelligencewhether
it is a phone number, a name, or an ATM receiptcan be
the breakthrough we need to make a vital connection or crack
a case. Much of the gang intelligence the FBI collects comes
from your officers on the street, who know their communities
inside and out.
the FBI disseminates gang intelligence back to you. One way
we do this is through the National Gang Intelligence Center,
which serves as a collection and distribution point for gang
information. Intelligence developed from our partnerships
is provided to the NGIC for analysis and dissemination, and
disseminate gang intelligence through Law Enforcement Online,
or LEO. In fact, the MS-13 National Gang Task Force has a
Special Interest Group on LEO that allows members to securely
share information, review global trends, download intelligence
products, obtain training, and even have real-time secure
FBI's third weapon is federal statutes, such as RICO. Working
together, we can bring gang cases to federal court, where
sentences are longer. And federal asset forfeiture laws allow
us to seize money, property, and other assets from convicted
intelligence, and federal law are all vital elements in our
formula for combating gang violence. And this formula has
produced success stories in cities plagued by gang violence,
from Chicago to New York, and from San Antonio to San Diego.
In 2007 alone, joint investigations led to over 2,300 convictions,
685 disruptions and 106 dismantlements of gangs. They also
helped net over $27 million in seizures and over $11 million
said, the FBI's traditional approach has been to identify
gangs by working from the bottom up, and dismantle them by
working from the top down. We've had some fantastic results.
But given the scope of gang activity throughout America, it
has become clear that this traditional approach is only part
of the solution to a complex problem.
is that gangs operate across state lines and international
borders. So not only do we have to work closely together within
American cities, we also have to work closely with our international
partners. That's exactly the reason we originally established
the MS-13 National Gang Task Force, and why we continue to
make it a high priority. In fact, our relationships have grown
so strong that we have taken our cooperation to the next level.
the Transnational Anti-Gang Initiative, known as "TAG,"
with our partners in El Salvador's Policía Nacional
Civil. The goal of the TAG is to investigate, disrupt, and
dismantle gangs whose activities rise to the level of criminal
enterprise. This partnership allows the FBI and the PNC to
share valuable intelligence when our investigations have a
is off to a great startrelationships are evolving, friendships
are forming, and our teamwork is already producing results.
For example, we developed crucial leads for a gang-related
homicide investigation in Miami thanks to our information
sharing. And an individual arrested by U.S. authorities on
immigration charges was identified as being wanted for multiple
homicides in El Salvador.
first joint operation was conducted in late September 2007
and resulted in the arrests of 10 violent MS-13 gang members,
the seizure of firearms, and the recovery of a three-year-old
child who had been missing since his mother's death in 2005.
is only the beginning of what we believe will be a long and
National Gang Task Force and the PNC have also spearheaded
the Central American Fingerprint Exploitation Initiative,
known as CAFÉ. Through CAFÉ, criminal biometric
data and fingerprints from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala,
Belize, and Honduras are collected, stored, and incorporated
into the FBI's database. We make them available to all U.S.
law enforcement personnel.
also provides training and equipment to help participating
countries to do their own digital fingerprint identification
already seeing results. Since May 2006, the FBI has compared
over 60,000 criminal fingerprints from Mexico, El Salvador,
and Belize to U.S. databases. Of the 50,000 fingerprint records
from El Salvador, about 4,300 records were positive matches
in our databases.
to take a moment to thank the State Department for its generous
funding of both TAG and CAFÉ, which fall under the
State Department's Merida Initiative. The Merida Initiative
is another sign of the United States' commitment to working
with partners in Mexico and Central America to confront criminal
organizations. And as TAG and CAFÉ show, it is already
having a tremendous impact on our ability to work together
across international boundaries.
is yet another joint initiative. The FBI has partnered with
the Los Angeles City Mayor's Office, the Los Angeles County
Sheriff's Department, the Los Angeles Police Department and
the PNC to develop an international officer exchange program.
Officers of the PNC will be assigned to LAPD and LASD for
30 days at a time for training. Not only will we learn each
other's best practices, we will be forming lifelong professional
and personal relationships that will help us all accomplish
these effortsfrom multi-agency Safe Streets Task Forces
to the multi-national TAGare bearing fruit. In an outstanding
example of international cooperation, last month the Safe
Streets Task Force in Washington, D.C. arrested one of El
Salvador's 50 Most Wanted Fugitives.
a detective with the Arlington Police Department provided
the MS-13 National Gang Task Force with the subject's name
and date of birth, and on a hunch, asked that we run his name
against criminal files in El Salvador. Sure enough, the TAG
team in El Salvador determined the subject was wanted in connection
with a homicide.
was arrested here in the United States. And when his fingerprints
were run through IAFIS, they were a match for a CAFÉ
record from San Salvador.
case is a classic example of all our efforts coming togetherstate
and local partnerships, the MS-13 National Gang Task Force,
the TAG, the CAFÉ initiative, and the Safe Streets
Task Forces. This is why it is so important that we keep building
our partnerships, expanding our technology, and sharing our
of the success stories you write every day with your work,
sometimes it seems that you never have enough resources to
keep up with the challenges you face. But as Winston Churchill
once said: "The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity.
The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
line of work, we are certainly beset with many difficulties.
We are all facing financial shortfalls and limited resources,
yet criminals seem to be thriving. And watching the numbers
of gang members and violent gang-related incidents rise is
is that we can't keep up with those raw numbers. But we have
to find the opportunities amid the difficultiesso here's
what we can do: We can keep strengthening our partnerships.
We can keep improving our intelligence gathering, analysis,
and sharing. We can continue to work as a united front to
undertake complex investigations that might once have been
limited to a single department in a single city.
complex these investigations are, the more we need each other.
And what we can't forget is that our communities need us,
old kids getting recruited into gangs need us to stand up
and fight for them. The neighborhoods ravaged by robberies,
drug sales, and shootings need us to stand up and fight for
them. The families torn apart by murder call out to usthey
are not collateral damage, they are victims, and they need
us to stand up and fight for them.
full circle, let me share one more success story with you,
to bear in mind when you grow discouraged or overwhelmed by
the enormity of the task before us.
past October, the Safe Streets Task Force in Los Angeles conducted
a major takedown of a clique of the 18th Street Gang. Eighteen
gang members and associates were indicted on federal narcotics
charges. This investigation dovetailed with the LAPD's investigation
of the shooting near MacArthur Park, which killed Baby Luis
wake of that tragedy, the FBI offered its assistance to the
LAPD's Robbery-Homicide Division. We passed on the intelligence
we had gathered from our takedown, and we worked as one team
on the investigation. As a result, six subjects have been
arrested and charged by the District Attorney for their roles
in the shootingincluding the actual shooter. And we
will not rest until we track down every single person involved.
can bring Baby Luis back to his mother. But our job is to
stand up and fight for him. Our mission is to bring some measure
of justice to his family. And we are confident that all of
the killers and their co-conspirators will be brought to justice.
crime is deeply rooted in the FBI's heritage. Since its inception
100 years ago, the FBI has always stood shoulder-to-shoulder
with police and sheriffs to combat threats to our collective
safety. And we always will.
post-September 11 world, our responsibilities are greater
than ever. But so is our resolve. No matter what agency, what
state, what country we come from, we are all here because
we believe in our mission, and we are all committed to working
together to protect our communities.
to close with the words of a great American president, John
F. Kennedy. These words were spoken 47 years ago to our friends
in Canada, but they apply perfectly today to our partners
and friends in Mexico and Central America.
Kennedy said, "Geography has made us neighbors. History
has made us friends. Economics has made us partners, and necessity
has made us allies. Those whom God has so joined together,
let no man put asunder."
how formidable the challenges we faceno matter how forcefully
gang violence threatens to tear our communities and our coalitions
asunderwe must maintain our commitment to being neighbors,
friends, partners, and allies. Standing together, we are more
formidable than any adversary. And standing together, we will
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