Part 3: The US police cut off the MS-13 octopus’s trunk

Part 3: The US police cut off the MS-13 octopus's trunk - Photo 1.

MS-13 members in prison in El Salvador – Photo: JAN SOCHOR – GETTY IMAGES

Speak up

After the MS-13 gang robbed a beauty salon in Houston in January 2008, they also sexually assaulted an employee of the salon, by the way. Before leaving, one of the shopkeepers took a picture of the shop owner and threatened: “If you call the police, you will regret it”. They ask the salon to pay $100 a week for “protection”.

Looting and collecting protection money are MS-13’s main tactics and revenue. Often, victims choose to remain silent and pay protection money for fear of their cruel revenge. In Latin America, the collection of protection money is very common. In Guatemala, bus service alone can bring street gangs up to $70 million a year, according to InSight Crime’s 2019 report.

According to the police, the victim will have to pay 10 to 40% of the total income from the business. This percentage is based on the thin line set by the gang to maximize the amount of money that the victim can still bear the “heavy tax collection”.

In El Salvador, from the testimony of the victims, authorities estimate that the Fulton Locos, a powerful MS-13 group, can earn between $15,000 and $17,000 a month, most of which is protection money. Assuming all groups are the same, with 249 gangs in El Salvador, this could amount to almost $45 million a year.

Back to the Houston robbery, a week after the robbery, the store owner refused to pay security, two gangsters drove past the store, fired 17 times into the front door. The cars parked on the side of the road in front of the shop were also affected.

Thanks to the surveillance tape and the cooperation of the shop owner, it did not take long for the police to apprehend the members of this violent gang. In total, 7 people were arrested, 7 guns were confiscated. The men face state and federal charges of robbery and face long prison sentences in Texas.

The FBI praised the store owner’s act of courage: “This is proof that victims of crime should not suffer in silence.” The shop owner is also protected by the FBI. After the incident, many other victims of MS-13 extortion in Houston spoke out.

Part 3: The US police cut off the MS-13 octopus's trunk - Photo 2.

US agents escort an MS-13 member in Brentwood, New York – Photo: JOHN MOORE / GETTY IMAGES

Synchronized solutions

Steve Levy, a former leader of Suffolk County, Long Island, New York, said he started seeing an increase in gang violence in half of Long Island in 2009. To get the situation under control, his grandfather. task force consisting of the Suffolk County Sheriff and the federal police. Mr. Levy said the synergies brought great benefits and created new synergies. The local police have specific information about each criminal, each case. This information is shared with the federal government, which has the resources and authority that local police do not have.

According to Levy, MS-13’s influence in the region “has been significantly reduced”. He hopes that cooperation between local and federal police is implemented in all communities. In addition, a database of gang members and criminal records is required for each name. The state of California has established such a state database, called CalGang, since about 2007. Police can access it to quickly find out the background of gang members and the salient features of each. people like tattoos, accomplices and how it works…

The police also do not deny the role of social interventions. In testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee in May 2017, Montgomery County Sheriff J. Thomas Manger emphasized the importance of working with immigrant communities. immigration to eliminate crime committed by the MS-13 gang.

“Without the cooperation of non-criminal immigrants, we would never have been able to find and arrest the MS-13 criminals,” says Manger. When the police deport them, they will stop cooperating with the police. At that point, we receive no information or intelligence about MS-13 even if innocent members of the community are their victims.” .

Many people agree with this view because MS-13 famously recruits members of middle and high school age teenagers, mainly in immigrant communities, the average age of recruitment. is 13 or 14 years old. By the age of 16, several gang members had ordered the murder.

Social network surveillance is also a new method of fighting crime. Manger police said social media has become a means “for gang members to target their opponents, recruit members, communicate with each other and thwart law enforcement efforts against them.” . A team of cyber police that specialize in tracking criminals is essential, especially when there are some guys who like to brag about their achievements.

The US police often seek to gather as much intelligence about the gang (possibly from members who want to get paid). They need inside information leaking out about MS-13 members and plans. They appoint the police in charge of tracking down specific members and gathering evidence for future prosecution. The New York Post published a story from a former MS-13 member that the police also had tricks to make MS-13 destroy each other. When they catch a guy, they will reveal to this person who the informant is because they know that the gang will not tolerate traitors (this information is not verified).

However, in many measures to eliminate MS-13, the search and deportation of criminals face mixed opinions. In an interview with US National Radio in 2017, the then Houston, Texas police chief, Art Acevedo, said that deporting MS-13 members from the United States was very inefficient, like kidnapping. plate. He cited the case of a young Guatemalan living in Virginia who was deported. Then later, the police found this person dead in San Antonio, Texas – which means that somehow the criminals deported by the US still return to the US.

Many argue that using the force of law enforcement to hunt down, imprison, and deport MS-13 will not be successful in the long run, but fund social intervention and education programs for the poor. migrants, as early intervention programs for children would be more effective.

In the book Gangs in Garden City (rough translation: Crime in the City) published in 2009 about gangs on Long Island, journalist Sarah Garland wrote: “The more MS-13 members deported to Central America, the more widespread the gang seems to be. “.

She traces the history back to the 1990s when federal law enforcement was actively hunting down criminals. Because of this wave of immigrant deportations, MS-13, the gang that was born in America, was exported to Central America and thrived there. By 2012, the US government considered MS-13 a “transnational criminal organization”.

Articles on the page Business Insider also said that the strategy that the US implemented was to hunt down and deport, in fact, just to help MS-13 become stronger. When it comes to deporting immigrants, the most profitable party is MS-13.

One That is, the gang at home will “exploit” these people because coming back from the US, more or less they also have little money. Secondafter being deported, these teenagers will be helpless and a target for gang admission.

El Salvador’s government has also made a prolonged effort against the gangs, mixing tough tactics with bargaining, but the gangs are still present and powerful.


Aged 12 in El Salvador, Henry kills his first man with a machete – completing his MS-13 membership. This ritual is to take a “rain of blows” from the whole gang and then: kill a person!

>> Next time: The MS-13 killer returns to his salary

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