Most gangs in Texas call Houston region home
DANE SCHILLER (HOUSTON CHRONICLE) | Oct. 10, 2010
Violent gangs and drug traffickers in the Houston area are growing stronger and more international, spreading into the suburbs as they bulk up on newfound connections with Mexico’s lucrative and brazen organized crime syndicates.
The region is home to far more gang members than anywhere in Texas, according to the National Gang Threat Assessment.
As of this year, there were 225 documented gangs roaming the area, according to intelligence reports, the biggest being the “Houstones,” with at least 2,233 members that have been confirmed by police.
Their soldiers alone equate to about 43 percent of the number of Houston police officers.
“Due to their sheer numbers, they (gangs) have a propensity to create a large number and wide variety of criminal acts,” according to a report reviewed by the Houston Chronicle and compiled by the Houston High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, a coalition of law-enforcement agencies that stretches from here to the coastal counties, an area that includes 6 million people.
Those criminal acts include home invasions, robbery, kidnapping, murder, extortion, money laundering and drug trafficking at a level alarming even to law enforcement.
“As gang members and drug traffickers become more violent and brazen, they pose a rising threat to law enforcement now and in the future,” notes the report, which states that gang recruitment is at an all-time high.
“Gangs now have a younger, more violent membership.”
There are at least 10,000 “documented” gang members in Houston and the surrounding counties, according to Houston Police.
The total, which authorities concede is conservative, is drawn from criminals caught by law enforcement and identified as gangsters. Their profiles are pumped into a database shared by multiple agencies trying to fight them.
“It is a national trend that they are moving from the inner cities to suburbs to rural areas,” said Capt. Dale Brown, commander of the Houston Police Department’s gang division. “There is virtually no part of Houston or the surrounding area that doesn’t have some kind of gang presence.”
Drugs going wholesale
Authorities say gangs working with international drug traffickers have shifted to selling drugs at the wholesale level, instead of street corners.
That has meant more cash and better access to weapons.
A homemade grenade thought to belong to Mexico’s La Familia cartel was found in Harris County, according to the report, and a gang member in Kleberg County was caught with a grenade launcher.
The narco ties are thick. About 50 percent of gangsters who are arrested are caught on drug charges, according to the HPD.
Authorities liken them to marauding pirates, spreading mayhem as they fly the flags of crews like the “Southwest Cholos,” the “59 Bounty Hunters,” “Treetop Bloods” and the area’s second-largest gang, the “52 Hoover Crips.”
Last year, for the first time in the region that stretches from Houston to the Mexican border, 10 ranking members and associates of the notorious “Texas Syndicate” were sent to prison after being collectively prosecuted for multiple murders, robberies and other crimes under a law created a generation ago to battle New York organized crime.
They took orders from Texas Syndicate general Francisco “Butcher” Nuncio Jr., who is covered in tattoos, including a huge “TS” on his back.
Nuncio pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 20 years, but the Bureau of Prisons has no public record of his whereabouts.
Indictments being felt
The Texas Syndicate, like some other top-tier gangs, has officers, secret meetings, rules and a death penalty for members who betray them.
One unsolved gang murder involves a former Houston captain for the Hermanidad de Pistoleros Latinos, Spanish for “Brotherhood of Latin Gunmen.” His butchered torso was found floating in a trunk in Galveston Bay in 2006.
He reportedly skimmed drug profits from the gang.
“They are all committing crimes,” said Brian Ritchie, head of the FBI Houston Division’s task force on violent crimes and gangs.
“I would not say they are getting more violent. I would not say (gang crime) is going down — home invasions, rip-offs of other crooks, innocent business owners.”
Authorities do, however, note that for the first time in a decade, there has been a “noticeable disruption” of the operations of some top-tier gangs, such as the Brotherhood of Latin Gunmen and the Texas Syndicate, as a result of a wave of indictments.
Full article at: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/7240745.html