New Partnership Targets MS-13


Call it a case of having friends in the right places: last week, we joined with our partners in El Salvador in announcing our latest initiative targeting MS-13—the extremely violent, fast-spreading street gang that has tentacles in more than 40 U.S. states and 10 different nations across two continents.

It’s called the Transnational Anti-Gang, or TAG, initiative (the Centro Antipandillas Transnacional in Spanish), and its centerpiece is eyeball-to-eyeball communication and collaboration—namely, two FBI agents permanently stationed in San Salvador, working alongside 20 investigators and 10 analysts from the Policia Nacional Civil, or PNC, the national law enforcement agency of El Salvador, to share intelligence information on gang activities across Central America and the U.S.

The partnership makes operational sense: At least 40 of our field offices today have ongoing investigations into MS-13 and at least 15 field offices have investigations targeting the 18th Street Gang, many with direct links to El Salvador. Along with some 10,000 members in the U.S., MS-13 has an estimated 60,000 combined members in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.

The initiative is an outgrowth of another partnership—the MS-13 National Gang Task Force (NGTF), launched by the FBI three years ago to coordinate intelligence and emphasize national-level takedowns of MS-13 and the 18th Street Gang. According to Ken Kaiser, head of our Criminal Investigative Division in Washington, an “excellent working relationship” was built between the FBI and the PNC through this task force, making this new anti-gang program possible.

Here’s how the Transnational Anti-Gang initiative works:

  • PNC officers will identify and track gang members in El Salvador, gleaning as much information as possible about each member: their tattoos, their street names, their associates, their families, and their typical hideouts and hangouts in the U.S. and Central America.
  • This information will be channeled through the two FBI agents assigned to the TAG, then forwarded to the task force at FBI Headquarters. The task force will ensure the information is shared with appropriate field divisions.
  • At the same time, we will share information and intelligence with the PNC and law enforcement partners throughout Central America when our domestic gang cases have a connection to their investigations.
  • Our nations will also conduct joint investigations, and we will provide operational assistance to the Central American region as needed.

The team is already off to a good start. Last month, its first joint operation led to the arrest of ten MS-13 gang members in El Salvador affiliated with four different groups or cliques, including two of the most violent, “Los Teclanos” and “Los Pinos Locos Salvatruchos.” The investigation was part of a larger case involving 41 key MS-13 members indicted for 33 different murders. During the arrests, a three-year-old boy missing since the murder of his mother in December 2005 was safely recovered.

Identifying gang members in El Salvador and in neighboring countries will be aided by the Central American Fingerprint Exploitation initiative, or CAFÉ, created in May 2006. Under the initiative, criminal fingerprint and other biometric records from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras are entered into the FBI’s fingerprint databases, which can be searched by U.S. law enforcement and by the participating nations.

Posted by on Oct 10 2007. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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