On Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions declared that new initiatives would be taken to fight the MS-13, a transnational drug gang based out of the American southwest.
Addressing the International Association of Chiefs of Police in Philadelphia, Sessions announced that MS-13 had been designated the target of the powerful Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). “They will go after MS-13 with a renewed vigor and a sharpened focus. I am announcing that I have authorized them to use every lawful tool to investigate MS-13—not just our drug laws, but everything from RICO to our tax laws to our firearms laws. Just like we took Al Capone off the streets with our tax laws, we will use whatever laws we have to get MS-13 off of our streets,” Sessions said.
First established in 1982, OCDETF is, “the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s long-term intra- and inter-agency drug enforcement strategy.” It works by unifying the variety of federal “alphabet” agencies and focuses on international drug trafficking and money laundering, a mission that involves the dismantling of the transnational criminal cartels. MS-13 has been designated as such since 2012.
Sessions also said that, “These task forces bring together a broad coalition of our federal prosecutors, DEA, FBI, ATF, ICE, HSI, the IRS, the Department of Labor Inspector General, the Postal Service Inspectors, the Secret Service, the Marshals Service, and the Coast Guard. And they all have one mission: to go after drug criminals and traffickers at the highest levels.”
MS-13 had drawn a lot of attention from both the law enforcement and the media for its often shocking, violent tactics to operate its activities. There are around 30,000 members worldwide, including 10,000 in the United States, as per the information that is provided by the Justice Department. The gang started in Los Angeles, and now it has a “large presence” in New York, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., and a reach which is affecting 46 states.
Its motto being the source for its fame “kill, rape, control,” MS-13’s illegal activities mainly includes drug distribution, murder, rape, prostitution, robbery, home invasions, immigration offenses, kidnapping, car-jacking /auto thefts, and vandalism, as per the FBI. The members are known for their very violent, retributive murders, which have included beheadings and the stabbing death of a fifteen-year-old girl.
Earlier this month, the Department of Justice had announced the arrest of 3,800 MS-13 members in a transnational gang bust that was considered to be the product of months of coordination between Sessions and his counterparts in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
Beyond the new focus on OCDETF, Sessions also announced the awarding of a combined $3 million to the several state and local law enforcement agencies through the Community Policing Development program saying that “These awards will help equip our state and local partners with better training, tools, and tactics to fight crime and serve their communities. We know good professional policing works.”
That $3 million is just the start of the expected funding required to capture and stop the MS-13’s activities, with the Justice Department inclined to award around $100 million across the country to help fund the hiring of more police officers, Sessions had announced over the weekend.