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New York State Police Create Gang Unit To Fight MS-13

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Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter

The New York State Police announced Wednesday the formation of a special unit dedicated to fighting MS-13, the brutal transnational gang allegedly responsible for recent murders in Long Island.

The new unit will share surveillance equipment, vehicles and intelligence with local law enforcement agencies, the Wall Street Journal reported.

State police will also dedicate 25 troopers to patrol the Long Island towns of Brentwood and Central Islip, which officials say have been the center of MS-13 activity in the area.

“MS-13 are thugs,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday. “Their calling card is fear and intimidation. And they prey on the working families of Brentwood and Central Islip. Our job is to say to MS-13, ‘enough is enough.’”

The state response comes as authorities in Long Island’s Suffolk County investigate a series of grisly murders believed to be the work of MS-13 members. Police found the bodies of four young men April 13 who had been hacked and stabbed to death, in a manner consistent with MS-13 killings, in a park in Central Islip. The discovery followed the March arrests of eight suspected MS-13 members for revenge murders of two teenage girls in Brentwood.

New York law enforcement officials say MS-13 has bolstered its ranks by recruiting young immigrants from Central American countries, many of whom arrived in the U.S. as a part of the unaccompanied minor surge from 2014 to 2016. The gang, founded in the 1980s in Los Angeles by refugees fleeing El Salvador’s civil war, maintains close relations with affiliates in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone asked for the federal government’s help Monday in limiting MS-13’s ability to recruit Central American teens who have been resettled in the area. He called on U.S. immigration authorities to coordinate more closely with local officials when placing young people in communities and school districts.

“We know that MS-13 is here, and they are following up with them and are trying to recruit them,” Bellone said at a press conference. “In the absence of us providing those resources and gang prevention resources, MS-13 will fill the gap.”

The Trump administration has made tracking and targeting transnational gangs, including MS-13, a priority in its border security policy. Attorney General Jeff Sessions promised stricter enforcement of immigration laws in order to deport MS-13 members and shrink the pool of potential gang recruits. (RELATED: Trump Admin Sets Its Sights On MS-13)

“If you are a gang member, we will find you. We will devastate your networks,” Sessions said at an April 17 meeting of the attorney general’s organized crime council.

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