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MS-13: A Gang Profile

NCJ Number
Journal of Gang Research Volume: 16 Issue: 4 Dated: Summer 2009 Pages: 1-14
Jennifer J. Adams; Jesenia M. Pizarro
Date Published
14 pages
This profile of the MS-13 (Mara Salvatrucha 13) gang addresses its origin, gang-member characteristics, organization, criminality, and criminal justice polices that have targeted MS-13.
MS-13 was formed by Salvadoran immigrants that came to the United States in order to escape the civil war in their home country. Some of its members were trained in guerilla warfare and the use of military weapons. The gang is well-organized and is heavily involved in lucrative illegal enterprises, being notorious for its use of violence to achieve its objectives. Fear and intimidation are used in extorting payments from any legitimate or illegitimate business owners for the right to conduct their business in MS-13 territory. MS-13 members have been involved in rapes and witness intimidation. In addition to local crimes, MS-13 is known to participate in numerous transnational crimes; for example, they are involved in the illegal trafficking of stolen vehicles from the United States to Central America. They also participate in weapon smuggling and illegal firearm sales. They are believed to be a major retail distributor of drugs in Houston. MS-13 also has theft crews traveling across the United States, stealing over-the-counter medications from retail stores that are then sold in the illegal market. There have also been reports of MS-13's involvement in human smuggling. In 2004, the FBI created the MS-13 National Gang Task Force, which coordinates cooperation among local and State law enforcement agencies, including facilitation in the flow of information among these agencies in order to dismantle MS-13. Other strategies involve the deportation of MS-13 members to their home countries. This effort, however, has exacerbated the gang problem by fueling its international proliferation. 23 references and 4 figures


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