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 U.S. with 1.4 million members criminally active, with these numbers growing continually.
Today’s gangs go far beyond the localized, rebellious, hooligan groups who 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 U.S. 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, 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 and have 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, Canada and the U.S.
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, MS-13 cells spread to Latino communities across the U.S., 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 also girls 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 MS-13 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 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 effect on the exploding growth of the gang. The gang is international in scope and will threaten a target’s family in his 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 U.S.
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