The gang phenomenon is much more widespread across the face of America than is generally recognized. As of 2014, there were over 33,000 street gangs, motorcycle gangs, and prison gangs in the US with 1.4 million members criminally active, with these numbers growing continually. Today’s gangs go far beyond the localized, rebellious, hooligan groups engaged in “juvenile delinquency” that were extant in former decades, especially the 1950s and 1960s, that were publicized and became well known in the wake of the Hollywood productions of “West Side Story” and “Blackboard Jungle”.

These were correctly seen as temporary stages of teenage immaturity and anti-social behavior that mainly urban youth grew out of as they became adults. Today’s gangs are sophisticated, well organized, nationally and even internationally based and are engaged in activities that the Mafia and organized crime were heretofore well known for. About 48% of all violent crimes in the US are committed by gangs.

The MS-13 gang, also known as the Mara Salvatrucha, is an international criminal gang that was started in 1980 in Los Angeles, CA ostensibly to protect incoming migrants from the country of El Salvador from the depredations of others. The gang festered and grew in the 1980s and gradually expanded the scope of its activities. After a time, the gang began to accept recruits from the Central American countries of Guatemala and Honduras which border El Salvador. These three nations contain the most violence-prone populations in all the Americas with the highest rates of murder in the world, let alone this Hemisphere. Their inhabitants are a natural breeding ground for the disease of gang activity, whether in their native habitats or as migrants to Mexico and North America.

Although the etymology of the name is unclear, Salvatrucha refers to a specific “Devils Horns” symbol which members use to identify and communicate with each other in the manner of a fraternal greeting. The symbol bears a striking resemblance to symbols used by satanic cultists to recognize and identify  each other. The symbol is also used by heavy metal rock bands and their fans.

The gang is allied with at least six other Hispanic gangs and there are at least fourteen rival gangs largely of Black or Hispanic composition, demonstrating the massive intrusion of the gang phenomenon into the specific areas infiltrated by them.

From Los Angeles, CA, MS-13 cells spread to Latino communities across the US, at first to urban and now lately expanding to low and middle class suburban communities. The number of members is uncertain and estimates range from 10,000 to over 50,000 members. In contrast to the gangs of old, the gang increasingly attracts adherents from older generations and women.

Gang members “distinguish” themselves by covering their entire bodies with tattoos which exhibit gang symbols. At one time they tattooed their faces, but are moving away from that practice, the better to commit crimes without being noticed or identified.

Barack Obama knew that gang members or potential gang members were part of the illegal immigrant/”unaccompanied minor” surge that he encouraged by falsely designating them as “refugees”. The run on the open border allowed many older male teens to slip through the the border as the Border Patrol was overwhelmed by the deluge. This led to a bump in gang recruitment and activity.

MS-13 gang activities cover nearly all criminal categories including: people smuggling and trafficking, robbery, racketeering, larceny, extortion, battery, murder, money laundering, prostitution(including child prostitution), drug smuggling, and kidnapping.

The gang’s activities are distinguished by uncommon savagery and brutality. The MS-13 initiation ceremony frequently involves beating someone to death in front of others, or the prospective member undergoes a severe beating himself. Victims are often hacked up with machetes, the weapon of choice of the gang. Machetes are commonly employed in run-of-the-mill fights in Central America, the primary source of member recruitment. Members use guns to a lesser degree than other gangs.

Arrests appear to have little affect on the exploding growth of the gang. The gang is international in scope and will threaten a target’s family in its home country, where American authorities are many times powerless to intervene. Deportation is of limited effectiveness because deportees are already networked into the criminal element that runs human smuggling routes. It appears that deportation only increases gang resolve to be more effective in entering the US.

Areas of MS-13 concentration include Los Angeles and San Francisco, CA; the Washington, DC suburban areas of Fairfax County, VA  and Montgomery and Prince Georges counties in MD; the borough of Queens in NYC; the counties of Nassau and Suffolk on Long Island; Newark, Plainfield, Jersey City and Elizabeth in NJ; the Boston, MA area; Charlotte, NC; Atlanta, GA; and Houston, TX. Internationally, the gang has a presence in Toronto, Canada and is strongest in Central America and Mexico.

Some of the more egregious and publicized of the thousands of crimes committed by the MS-13 include the following:

–On December 23, 2004, an intercity bus in Honduras was intercepted and sprayed with automatic gunfire from assault rifles, killing 28 and wounding 14 passengers, most of them women and children. The massacre was a protest against reinstatement of the death penalty in Honduras.

–On May 13, 2006, Ernesto “Smokey” Miranda, the original founder of the infamous gang was murdered at his home in El Salvador after declining to attend a party for a gang member who had just been released from prison. He had turned over a new leaf, had begun studying law, and was working to keep children out of gangs.

–On June 22, 2008 in San Francisco, CA , a 21 year old MS-13 gang member, Edwin Ramos, shot and killed a man and his 2 sons as they were returning home from a family get-together. Their car had inadvertently and briefly blocked Ramos from completing a left turn on a narrow street.

–In November 4, 2009, gang leaders in El Salvador put out a contract on a federal agent who was responsible for a crackdown on New York gang members for multiple offenses. An informant was responsible for breaking up the plot.

–In 2011, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in New Haven, CT was vandalized several times with the MS-13 insignia and “kill whites” sprayed on the memorial in orange paint.

–Rances Amaya, the leader of the MS-13 gang in Springfield, VA,  just south of Washington, DC was sentenced to 50 years in prison in February 2012  for child prostitution involving recruiting juvenile girls lured from middle schools, high schools and public shelters. Once acquired, the  girls were required to have sex with as many as 10 men per day.

The Center For Immigration Studies released a report on April 4, 2018, “MS-13 Gang Gaining Members By Recruiting Illegal Immigrants”  listing 506 cases of MS-13 criminal acts in the US between 2012 and early 2018.(END).”

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