A fresh wave of crime from the infamously violent MS-13 gang in the District of Columbia is being driven by the heavy recruitment of young illegal immigrants.
A surge of minors crossing the U.S. southern border is helping the notorious gang boost their ranks and instigate a new string of violent attacks in the city, reported The Washington Times. Over the past few years a wave of illegal migrant children crossed the U.S. border, and MS-13 appears to be targeting them for recruitment.
“They are certainly susceptible,” Ed Ryan, gang prevention coordinator in Fairfax County, Virginia, told The Washington Times. “They are new, they have very little family, they don’t know the language very well. They are looking for someone who looks like them, talks like them.”
Experts say violence from MS-13, which originally started in California, historically occurs in waves. Currently MS-13, on orders from El Salvador, is ramping up efforts in cities across the U.S. to reestablish their dominance on the streets, reports The Washington Times.
“What we are beginning to see is an attempt to re-establish themselves as the preeminent gang in the Maryland area,” Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy told The Washington Times. “They are actively trying to build their numbers again. That is based on direction they are receiving from outside the U.S.”
The gang is known for brutal violence and murders, usually involving knives and machetes. Eight homicides in Virginia and Maryland over the last year are linked to MS-13.
Three immigrants who entered the country illegally in 2013 were arrested and charged in one of the murder cases, the fatal shooting of a 17 year old in Loudoun County, Virginia. The men allegedly entered the U.S. as unaccompanied minors, eventually falling off government radars after skipping their immigration hearings.
El Salvador, the gang’s home country, has the fourth highest per capita murder rate in the world, in large part due to the influence of MS-13. Washington, D.C., has the second largest Salvadorian community in the country behind Los Angeles at roughly 228,000 people.
“MS-13 functions like all immigrant organized crime groups,” former officer at the Organized Crime Unit of the Pennsylvania State Police Lou Gentile told Fox News Latino. “They start by targeting their own community.”
In past years violence from MS-13 members appeared to be on the decline, as the gang shifted focus to human trafficking and running local brothels. A multiple gang truce reached in El Salvador in 2012 also contributed to a lull in violent activity from MS-13. The truce failed, however, sparking a huge uptick in the homicide rates of Central American countries, reports The Washington Times.
In Boston, 56 MS-13 members were indicted in January for crimes aimed at diminishing the influence of rival gangs in the area. Officials in Washington, D.C., are seeing troubling signs showing the gang is trying to increase violent activity in the same way in the District.
“There has definitely been more violence this year,” Ryan told The Washington Times. “They’re getting smart now. They don’t use tattoos or other ways to identify someone as a gang member that much anymore.”
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