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America's Most Dangerous Gang

NCJ Number
Police: The Law Enforcement Magazine Volume: 29 Issue: 2 Dated: February 2005 Pages: 30-32,34
Shelly Feur Domash
Date Published
February 2005
4 pages
This article describes the Mara Salvatrucha 13 (MS-13) gang, which has spread from El Salvador to Los Angeles and across the United States, while becoming increasingly well-organized and deadly.
MS-13 has followed the same migratory patterns as the Salvadoran immigrant community that it preys upon, spreading across the United States from ethnic enclaves in California. Groups are affiliated up and down the East Coast in a network similar to traditional organized crime families. Once MS-13 becomes established in a community, it grows rapidly. There is zero tolerance for any person who provides information on MS-13 to police. There are sizable chapters on Long Island; Charlotte, NC, and the Washington Metropolitan Area (District of Columbia, Northern Virginia, and Maryland). MS-13 engages in multiple types of crimes and resorts to violence when thwarted or challenged and to build its intimidating reputation when it first arrives in a community. Gang members sometimes wear blue and white, which are colors in the national flag of El Salvador. They may also have numerous body and even face tatoos. Members of MS-13 are highly mobile, and they are quick to move their operations when the pressure from law enforcement becomes effective. With the number of MS-13 members increasing nationwide and the violence escalating, the challenge for law enforcement is also increasing. In communities where law enforcement does not target MS-13 quickly and effectively, the gang becomes an intimidating presence that can spread fear among residents. In addition, there is evidence that MS-13 is not only targeting law enforcement officers but is also engaged in talks with representatives of the al-Qaida terrorist organization regarding a strategic alliance.