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Combating Gangs: Federal Agencies Have Implemented a Central American Gang Strategy, but Could Strengthen Oversight and Measurement of Efforts

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2010
74 pages
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reviews Federal efforts to combat Central-American transnational gangs operating in the United States.
The findings address the extent to which the Federal Government has developed a strategy to combat these gangs, how Federal agencies have implemented the strategy and other programs for combating these gangs, and the effectiveness of the strategy. The study found that the National Security Council (NSC) - in cooperation with the Departments of State, Justice, and Homeland Security, as well as the U.S. Agency for International Development - has developed a strategy to combat gangs with connections to Central America; however, the strategy lacks an approach or framework for overseeing implementation and performance. The strategy identifies the problems and risks associated with the gangs, describes the strategy's scope and purpose, defines the roles and responsibilities of Federal agencies, and specifies implementation activities. The strategy lacks other characteristics, however, such as a plan for overseeing implementation and the specification of goals and measures used to assess progress. Instituting an oversight structure and the periodic measurement of performance would enhance the accountability of agencies in their implementation of the strategy and the impact of actions taken. Although Federal agencies have implemented programs, coordinated actions, and developed performance measures for assessing results of individual program, coordination could be strengthened in an antigang unit in El Salvador by reaching agreement on ICE's (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) role in the unit. Improved coordination at the FBI-initiated antigang unit in El Salvador could improve information sharing. Although FBI and ICE officials agree that the process could be improved by posting an ICE agent at the unit and have been discussing the possibility since 2008, they have not yet reached agreement on ICE's role. 5 tables, 3 figures, and appended supplementary details on the findings, a description of the study's scope and methodology, and comments on the report from Federal agencies