Legacy of Chicano Borderland gangs
The legacy of Chicano Borderland gangs
by Mike Tapia, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at New Mexico State University
The following is a synopsis of a work in progress on the histories of gangs in the New Mexico Borderland communities of Las Cruces and Anthony. Tapia’s work builds a timeline following changes in the character of Borderland barrio gangs to modern day. The result is a chronology that highlights some of the more durable groups over the years, including those feeding into more notorious gangs such as the SUR-13, the Chuco Tangos and the Barrio Azteca. There are groups in this region with origins in Los Angeles, Cd. Juarez, and its westernmost impoverished colonias. The 20 page working draft is available upon email@example.com.
“The Moties” - 1950’s and 1960’s: This band of street-wise Las Cruces youth were basically a car club. They engaged in small-town style mischief, such as petty theft, substance use, and conflict with other groups from nearby communities.
“The 45-ers” - A 1970’s pachuco/cholo style group of turf-aggressive youth claiming Klein Park and surrounding areas near the center of town. They may have changed their name to Los Home Boys (LHB) and affiliated with “13” in the 1990’s.
East Side Locos (ESL’s) - This was the most notorious Chicano barrio gang to emerge in Las Cruces. Their predecessors were pot-smoking, hard-rock music enthusiasts of the late 1970’s called “Natural High”, the “Stone-Freaks”, and “The Kids”. Since their emergence in the late 1970’s to early 1980’s, the East-Side Locos remained the dominant gang in Las Cruces for the next three decades.
Westside- The Westsiders represent a longstanding, and formidable Las Cruces gang tradition. Like ESL, there were various subsets, comprising a larger group, that by some accounts, are still active and recruiting. There have been numerous violent incidents between the east & westsiders over the years. However, it is worth noting that Las Cruces’s small size contributes to lots of co-offending and even friendships that form across gang lines, in some cases due to pre-gang ties.
Eight Ball Posse (EBP) / Puro Ocho- While it became one of Las Cruces’s most reputable drug “crews”, EBP’s formation and rise to notoriety in the early 1990’s was reactionary, as told by one of its O.G.’s. Like most modern Las Cruces Chicano gangs, EBP was begun by a California-based member of the Vargas family who moved to Las Cruces in the late 1980’s.
Doñaneros / Doña Ana Boys / North-Side Doña Ana (NSDA): One of the older and most durable Chicano gang traditions is set in the Northwestern portion of the city, extending into northern Doña Ana County. The Doñaneros were originally based out of the “Valley” in the Mayfield high school area, with their turf extending as far east as the Doña Ana boxing gym, Columbia Elementary and Vista Middle School. The other factions named above emerged out of internal conflicts over the years.
Varrio King Cobra (VKC): The VKC in Las Cruces migrated and evolved from an El Paso/Juarez based gang in the 1950’s called “The King Cobras”. VKC, as it was known in Las Cruces, represents one of the first serious “modern” gangs to emerge there in the vast gang proliferation years of the late 1980’s and 1990’s. VKC were known as “red-raggers”, with an implied affiliation to Norteños and the Bloods.
SouthSide Royal Knights (SSRN): The SSRN’s are or were another of the “modern” gangs that formed in the vast proliferation years of the gang craze across the U.S. Their formation and early structure, while tempting to classify as genuinely homegrown, it is the reference to “Southside” that suggests it too is marked by the Southern California influence. They eventually affiliated as Sureño “13”’s.
Sureño-Trece (SUR-13): While Sureño-affiliated gangs have been present in El Paso since the late 1980’s or early 1990’s their presence began to be “felt” in Las Cruces around the year 2000. Law enforcement interviewees in the current study noted that Sureños clashed with the city’s established gangs in those years. LCPD Gang Detectives call SUR-13 the dominant street-gang in Las Cruces today. This appears to be driven more by the appeal of SUR-13 as a popular “brand-name” for gang youth than it is strategic.
The Cruces Boys: The recent emergence of the Cruces Boys is among the most interesting developments in the modern gang landscape in Southern New Mexico. They are similar to the Tango formations throughout Texas. Essentially, the Cruces Boys, like their counterparts from Albuquerque, The Burqueños are “supergangs” that incorporate former street-gang members, once incarcerated. It is a street-to-prison hybrid that is organized around geography, or more specifically, according to the inmates’ hometown.
Anthony, New Mexico/Texas
Anthony sits right on the Texas-New Mexico border and is split by the state line boundary. Anthony is the midway point between Las Cruces and El Paso, situated about 20 miles from each. It therefore has network linkages to both places and is influenced by the cultural elements of each.
Los Papas & The Corner Pockets: Despite its small size, Anthony has seen quite a bit of gang activity, going back to the 1970’s and escalating into its plateau from about 2005-2007. Its barrio gang origins appear to stem from Juarez with the earliest known group “Los Papas”, emerging in the late 1970’s as immigrants from the extremely impoverished colonias (shanty towns) of Rancho Anapra, Colonia AltaVista, and Chaveña on the western outskirts of Juarez. Their rivals were the “Corner Pockets”, one of the first homegrown groups from Anthony per se. The next generation of Los Papas, a group more assimilated to U.S. Chicano gang culture came to be known as “Anthony Town Locos” (ATL).
During the modern age of gang activity (ca. late 1990’s – 2000), many members of the next generation of Los Pappas “Pee-Wees” and ATL’s transformed into the “Teners XV”, a Norteño-affiliated group. As a norte affiliated group, they used the customary color Red used in Northern California. However, a this group adopted the number “15” versus the “14” that Norteños traditionally use. This is somehow attributed to their roots in Juarez, but the exact origin of the “15” has so far not come to light in this study. They are currently the dominant gang in Anthony and their main rival is Varrio Anthony Locos-Sur 13, who also descended from “Los Pappas” and ATL.
Vario Anthony Locos-Sur 13 (VAL-13): Like their well-known enemies, the Teners, “the VALs” are also derived from one of Anthony’s original gangs, “Los Papas”. In about 2003 VAL affiliated with the Sureño nation and became “treces” (i.e. 13’s). Similar to processes occurring in nearby Las Cruces, the gang’s affiliation to the Sureños was driven by several factors. First, its members had links to one or more California based sets of Sureños. Their decision was also made in response to the emergence of the Teners as a Norteño set.
West Side Dukes-13 (WSD-13): The West Side Dukes originated in the low-income subdivision called Tierra Del Sol in Anthony. They were once considered one of the toughest gangs in Anthony, but were eventually overshadowed by the dominance of the Teners. Like the Valley Cartel Crew (VCC) in Las Cruces, the Dukes were one of the few borderland street gangs with known ties to a drug cartel in Juarez. Jesus Flores, who helped to form the group in the 1990’s was just arrested in a multi-agency effort targeting cartel-affiliated subjects throughout the borderland region (Las Cruces Sun News 2017).
Vario Mesquite Locos (VML’S 13): Another major group from the “valley” or “Anthony gap” area includes the VML-13, who are among the oldest gangs in the area. They originated in the time of Los Papas from Anthony. This gang’s influence extends to San Miguel and La Mesa.
Criminal proxy roles of Bandidos support clubs
Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs have devolved over the past half century from being public nuisances driving loud motorcycles menacingly through communities defying conventional behavior and intimidating residents to their present status as transnational criminal organizations trafficking narcotics, weapons, and prostitutes across state and international boundaries. Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs such as the Bandidos, Hells Angles, Mongols, Outlaws, Pagans, Sons of Silence, and Vagos are among the most prolific and violent in the United States. Consequently, in an attempt to not only extend their criminal reach and enterprises but to shield themselves from potential criminal culpability, these organizations have employed support motorcycle clubs as proxies. Because of a rise in violent public incidents and more aggressive federal prosecutions against the Bandidos, this paper will specifically address the enigmatic role of this organization’s support clubs and their implications as criminal proxies and how law enforcement utilize link analysis techniques to expand state and federal prosecutions such as Racketeering Influenced Corrupt organizations (RICO) cases against these vast criminal enterprises.
The genesis of the Bandidos followed a similar path as many other OMGs that emerged and flourished during the 1960s. Cultural disenfranchisement augmented with the angst of veterans returning from Vietnam with a pocket full of severance pay from the military and the exuberance of missed youth while fighting an unpopular war by an unappreciative society. Don “Mother” Chambers was one of those veterans who served with the U.S. Marine Corps in Vietnam and like many other OMGs the boundary between legend and truth of how the organization came to be are typically blurred. It is said that the then 36-year-old Houston dock worker Chambers started the Bandidos on March 4, 1966 in San Leon, Texas because he was bored with the clubs he had been riding with (Hollandsworth 2007). The new club’s name was chosen as an homage to Mexican bandits who refused to live by anyone’s rules but their own. Hollandsworth (2207) said Chambers recruited his earliest members from biker bars in Houston, Corpus Christie, and San Antonio. It has been assumed that Chambers adopted for his new organization the red and gold symbolic of the USMC however other sources say the club’s colors come from the venomous coral snake, commonly found in Texas. The logo is a depiction of a paunchy Mexican Bandido, called the “Fat Mexican” by members (Bandidos MC-History) holding a gun and machete and a diamond shaped patch of similar color with the requisite 1% designation so there was no mistaking what the group represented. Elaborating on the aura of outlaws the Bandido’s adopted the slogan, “We are the people our parents warned us about." This slogan was also placed on his flat black granite tombstone after his death from cancer in 1999.
Expansion of the club followed a linear trajectory with a second chapter being formed in Corpus Christi in 1968 with the group’s roots remaining in southeast Texas. But as their reputation increased as belligerents, so did their membership to where it is today. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office (2011), the organization had some 2,000 members and associates in more than 90 chapters in the United States. The organization has also established a broad spectrum of international footholds which had public safety implications that include Canada, Central and South America, Europe and Asia.
EVOLUTION AND ROLE OF SUPPORT CLUBS
With a fundamental understanding of the evolution of OMGs in the United States as criminal organizations the role of their support clubs is much more enigmatic as well as problematic for law enforcement. The life of support clubs is typically a parallel existence to the fully patched OMG but as has been seen on multiple occasions, the support clubs have criminally coalesced with and on behalf of the OMG serving as proxies to shield the parent organization from culpability. Given the risk versus rewards of aligning a support club with an OMG the relationships are just as curious as they are nebulous.
Support clubs are organized motorcycle clubs often times with eclectic memberships that include professionals, active duty military (BATF 2014), and even law enforcement (FBI 2009), many of whom maintain a tenuous balance between the licit and illicit worlds. There is the thrill of the wild side as well as the potential for income. There are mixed sentiments as to the extent support club members aspire for full-fledged membership but there have been instances of entire clubs being admitted after committing crime(s) on behalf of the Bandidos such as La Familia (Miller 2016).
According to a Texas law enforcement official, support clubs are used by OMG’s to bolster their numbers as a show of strength (also used in confrontations with other OMG’s), a source of income by collecting dues, and by having them commit and participate in organized criminal activity for monetary gain for the parent OMG. There are many support clubs throughout Texas and the United States where there are Bandidos chapters. Support clubs are allowed to wear the colors of the Bandidos but in reverse. Bandidos have a gold background with red letters and the center logo of the fat Mexican. Support clubs display there logo and name in yellow letters and on a red background, and may be given permission to wear the Texas bottom rocker. Support clubs may also wear their original colors and have patches (round patches called cookies) that state “Support Your Local Bandidos”, “SYLB” in red with yellow letters or the Bandidos’ gold and red colors.
While there is a sense of association with the potential for being patched in or even start their own chapter, if they receive the approval of the Bandidos, by those who so desire, the titles they are given are less than ominous and even borderline insulting. Support clubs are referred to as “puppets” or “ducks”.
This proxy role of performing legal and illegal activities for the Bandidos creates an intelligence and first response conundrum, for law enforcement who are not aware of the connection between the support club and Bandidos and since many members of support clubs are actually law abiding citizens. Thus the attractiveness of the force multiplier and shield the support clubs provide.
The following is a partial list of Bandidos support clubs provided the author from various law enforcement agencies in the Southwest. It is by no means a complete list but it does provide a perspective as to how complex the relationships extend:
Aces and Eights Companeros La Familia Malqueridos
Amigos Desparados Los Compadres Narbonas
Bandoleros Destralos Los Cumpidores Pistoleros
Black Berets Gray Ghosts Los Pirados Shadow Riders
Black Widows Hermanos Los Traviesos Solados
Cremators Hombres Malditos Wagon Burners
The Narbonas are an interesting subset. The majority of the Bandidos membership is racially comprised of Caucasion and Hispanics. The Narbonas, on the other hand, are primary Native American from the Navajo Reservation in Arizona. Narobona was a revered Navajo leader who defied the U.S. Army’s incursion onto his land and participated in the brief and unsuccessful war against the U.S. He was killed by U.S. soldiers in 1849.
BANDIDOS SUPPORT CLUB CRIMINAL ACTIVITY
The extent to which support clubs commit crimes on behalf of the Bandidos may never be known but for law enforcement and researchers to appreciate the presence and consequences of the support club matrix is critical for public safety and strategic interventions. Most of the law enforcement agencies contacted by the author were reluctant to discuss the criminal nexus and proxy activities of the plethora of Bandidos support clubs simply because many cases, such as the 2015 Waco shooting have not been adjudicated.
There have been isolated crimes committed by Bandidos support club members such as the Black Beret MC member charged with the alleged 2014 beating of a woman where the suspect then reportedly held a gun to her head in front of her two children.(Boetel 2014). On August 1, 2016 (Fisher) four members of the Amigos support club in Montana were arrested in connection with shooting at a vehicle 23 times in June 2016. The owner of the vehicle told police he was targeted because he dated on of the alleged assailants. One of the Amigos was on probation for failing to register as a violent offender in Missoula County after being convicted of aggravated assault in another incident. El Paso Gang investigators arrested the sergeant-at-arms for the Brass Knuckles MC, a locoal support club for the Bandidos, allegedly for engaging in organized crime, and robbery (Borunda 2016). The suspect was also allegedly involved in an incident where he and three other Bandidos attempted to remove the signature leather vest of a rival biker outside an El Paso club.
One of the largest cases involving a Bandidos support club was in 2009 when 28 members of the Aces and Eights MC Bandidos support club, including Texas sheriff deputies, were charged in a 110-count federal indictment for allegedly operating a major methamphetamine trafficking organization since January 2003 in west Texas, Arizona, and in the Modesto, California, area. in the course of executing several search warrants, narcotics, drug trafficking paraphernalia, firearms, U.S. currency, financial records, and vehicles were seized (FBI 2009).
The indictment alleged the methamphetamine was weighed, packaged for sale and divided between two of the suspects for distribution throughout the South Plains area of West Texas. The methamphetamine was sold for cash, firearms, conveyances, sexual favors and other commodities (FBI 2009).
The intricate operation used several locations in Texas’s Hockley and Lubbock Counties by some of the conspirators to hide, weigh, possess with intent to distribute, package for distribution and distribute methamphetamine. In addition, some of the conspirators, some of whom were methamphetamine users, addicts and felons, knowingly possessed firearms. Some of the conspirators stored and hid firearms for other conspirators, who were prohibited persons, in furtherance of drug trafficking crimes (FBI 2009).
Another conspiracy that directly linked a support club with the Bandidos was a 2015 allegation that the groups were planning to murder Texas law enforcement for killing some of their members in retribution following the notorious Waco shootout between members and supporters of the Bandidos and Cossacks OMGs in May 2015 that left nine bikers dead and eighteen and 170 arrested (CNN 2015). Waco police said Bandidos support club members were involved and arrested in the shooting but would not disclose the name of the club while the case is being adjudicated. Officials said they obtained intelligence that members of the Bandidos and Black Widows with ties to the military obtained hand grenades and C4 explosives to be used for vehicle borne improvised explosive devices targeting high-ranking Texas law enforcement officials involved in the Waco incident and their families
Arguably the most extensive arrest involving Bandidos support club members occurred in May 2016 when members of La Familia were arrested in part of a wide sweeping crack cocaine distribution ring in West Texas (Miller 2016). eight people, all of whom are affiliated with the La Familia Motorcycle Club, as well as the seizure of one residence, three motorcycles, four vehicles and about $195,000. Recognizing their loyalty and in preparation for a planned meeting in Ector County, Texas with their arch rivals the
Cossacks in April 2015, members of La Familia were “patched in,” as full members of the Bandidos. The meeting never occurred due to a heavy police deterrence but this meeting would have been the month before the infamous Waco incident.
What these incidents do demonstrate is the far reaching web of the Bandidos and their support clubs and how both, either working in tandem or individually, pose significant public safety threats in their areas of operation. The nexus has been clear on multiple occasions as to their common criminality but the challenge is for law enforcement to link the nuclear organization with its satellite branches to determine if the support clubs are working separate from,in collusion with, or as a proxy for the Bandidos. One common technique used by criminal intelligence analysts is link analysis. This can be especially beneficial when developing a federal Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO) case against the organizations. Link analysis can demonstrate the intricate web of associations to confirm criminal activities are being perpetrated on behalf of the nuclear organization by its members or supporters.
INTELLIGENCE LINK ANALYSIS
Establishing the criminal link between the support club and the parent OMG is typically accomplished through a criminal intelligence skill called link analysis. The most basic, and typically the most productive technique, is a simple flow chart demonstrating a link between activities, people, and locations. This allows investigators to connect details that extend bilaterally between the support club and parent OMG. This type of analysis can also successfully strengthen a RICO case by demonstrating the interactions of criminal activity and how far it extends. Figure 1 is an example of a flow chart used for criminal link analysis. Observe how the tentacles can reach from the various clubs to connect their association, perhaps not previously realized, back to the parent OMG. It is for this reason that not only law enforcement as well as academic investigators develop a data base of known or suspected support clubs of, in this case, the Bandidos. The following is merely a hypothetical scenario.
Criminal proxy function of OMG support clubs can’t be ignored. While actual members may want to assert their authority, it behooves them to exploit these alternative human resources to execute criminal activities as a shield from culpability in the crime,
Bandidios MC-History, http://www.bandidosmeran.com/de/history/index_en.php?navid=2, Accessed Sept. 2016.
Boetel, Ryan (2014), Complaint: Black Berets president arrested on domestic violence charges, https://www.abqjournal.com/392641/complaint-black-berets-president-arrested-on-dometic-violence-charges.html, Accessed Sept. 2016.
Borunda, Daniel, Fourth arrest made in Bandido assault case, http://www.elpasotimes.com/story/news/crime/2016/09/07/fourth-arrest-made-bandidos-assault-case/89977308/, Accessed Sept. 2016
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, OMGs and the Military 2014, https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/2085684/omgs-july-2014-redacted.pdf, Accessed Sept. 2016.
CNN (2015), New threat from biker gangs in Texas: “Bandidos want to retaliate against police for shooting ‘their’ brothers”, http://fox6now.com/2015/05/21/new-threats-from-biker-gangs-in-texas-bandidos-want-to-retaliate-against-police-for-shooting-their-brothers/, Accessed Sept. 2016.
Dulaney, William (2005), A brief history of “Outlaw” motorcycle clubs, International Journal of Motorcycle Studies, http://ijms.nova.edu/November2005/IJMS_Artcl.Dulaney.html, accessed Sept. 2016.Federal Bureau of Investigation (2009), Arrests in Texas and California target members of known Outlaw Motorcycle Gang in methamphetamine distribution conspiracy;
Two Defendants Charged in Conspiracy are Hockley County, Texas Sheriff Deputies, https://archives.fbi.gov/archives/dallas/press-releases/2009/dl071009a.htm, Accessed Sept. 2016.
Federal Bureau of Investigation (2009), Arrests in Texas and California Target Members of Known Outlaw Motorcycle Gang in Methamphetamine Distribution Conspiracy; Two Defendants Charged in Conspiracy are Hockley County, Texas Sheriff Deputies, https://archives.fbi.gov/archives/dallas/press-releases/2009/dl071009a.htm, Accessed Sept. 2016.
Federal Bureau of Investigation National Gang Report (2015)
Fisher, Andrea (2016), Gang ties suspected in shooting of vehicle 23 times http://www.greatfallstribune.com/story/news/local/2016/08/01/additiona l-suspects-charged vehicle-shooti..., Accessed Sept. 2016
Gleason, Ralph J.(2009), Aquarius Wept, Esquire Magazine, http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/a6197/altamont-1969-aquarius-wept-0870/, Accessed Sept. 2016.
Hollandsworth, Skip (2007), The gang’s all here, Texas Monthly, April 2007. http://www.texasmonthly.com/articles/the-gangs-all-here/. Accessed Sept. 2016.
Liwak, Leo (1967), On the Wild Side, https://www.nytimes.com/books/98/11/29/specials/thompson-angels.html, accessed Sept. 2016.
Miller, Nathan (2016), Feds arrest 33 in Thursday drug raids; Officials say 49 total face charges in connection with investigations, Odessa American, file:///C:/Users/Joseph/Downloads/(U)%202016%20MAY%2027%20Feds%20arrest%2033%20in%20Thursday%20drug%20raids%20-%20Odessa%20%20American_....pdf, Accessed Sept. 2016.
National Drug Intelligence Center (2006),National Drug Threat Assessment 2006, https://www.justice.gov/archive/ndic/pubs11/18862/gangs.htm, Accessed Sept. 2016.
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State of California Department of Justice Bureau of Organized Crime and Criminal Intelligence (1990), Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs Overview, https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/Digitization/147691NCJRS.pdf, accessed Sept. 2016.
U.S. Attorney’s Office/District of Colorado (2011) Metro Gang Task Force Arrests Bandidos Motorcycle Club Members and Their Associates, https://archives.fbi.gov/archives/denver/press-releases/2011/metro-gang-task-force-arrests-bandidos-motorcycle-club-members-and-their-associates, Accessed Sept. 2016.
SWGIC, NMSU conduct training for Mexican Federal Police in Cd. Juarez
Representatives from the Southwest Gang Information Center and the Criminal Justice Department at New Mexico State University held a training on interview techniques, Sept. 7, for members of the Mexican Federal Police stationed in Ciudad Juarez.
Omar Daniel Bolado Torres, commander of the unit located in the southern section of Cd. Juarez,says the federal police are undergoing revisions in policies and tactics to resemble a form of American community policing
By understanding some of the causes of aberrant student behavior teachers and administrators may be able to mitigate the occurrence and magnitude of violent incidents.
While high rates of substance abuse, poverty and unemployment have been identified as factors that affect domestic stability for children, it is the exposure and victimization to violence and emotional trauma that are the true catalysts for disruptive and anti-social behavior, especially in the structured confines of a school setting.
The first step in addressing violent student behavior is understanding some of its root causes. In the absence of a diagnosed medical condition, the enigmatic emotional contributors are much less evident since the child and even educators will chalk up the violent behavior to a “bad kid.”
As Father Edward Flanagan, founder of the iconic Nebraska youth center Boys Town, said, “There are no bad boys. There is only bad environment, bad training, bad example, bad thinking.” To support Fr. Flanagan’s thesis, there just may be explanations, as hard as they may be to grasp in a tense or repeat incident.
So when you are confronted with a belligerent or violent student committed to proving he or she is the bad ass in the school who can’t be challenged and who won’t back down, consider what brought the student to that point. Pre-emptive communication with the school counselor, administrators, or prior teachers, may provide some insight into what the school year will look like for a teacher.
For starters, a recent study found that New Mexico youths are exposed to trauma more than twice the national average. While some can walk away unscathed, the norm is the majority can’t. In some form or another adverse reactions to trauma will manifest.
In June the Southwest Gang Information Center conducted a survey of a group of Albuquerque adolescents ranging in age from 12-17 years old, attending a gang intervention program either because of prior violent behavior or for being at-risk of being violent.
Of the 18 respondents, five said they were victims of violence, two of whom were 14 years old; eleven said they had seen violence occur; and seven said they know someone who is a victim of violence. While the sample group may be small it does represent the prevailing problem in Albuquerque and supports the UNM study in the impact physical and emotional trauma has on violent behavior.
Three of the victimized teens admitting to frequently committing violent acts with the youngest being 12 years old, and eight admitting to occasionally committing violent acts.
In terms of the emotional impact violence had on the victims, the responses were startling. Of the five admitted victims three reported that people frequently get on their nerves; four frequently have trouble sleeping with one occasionally; three frequently have trouble concentrating with two occasionally.
In the group that had seen violence seven of the eleven said people frequently get on their nerves indicating a state of hyper vigilance and sensitivity.
These findings indicate the presence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that typically isn’t considered as a cause for violent student behavior.
One of the adverse options teens explore to vent their frustrations, fuel addictions, or to search for some sense of familial structure are gangs. Gangs proliferate throughout New Mexico, Albuquerque in particular. According to a 2014 FBI report, there are—gangs and – gang members in New Mexico with—percent in Albuquerque. This is an attractive alternative to a student with no family structure, affection, or stability. Then there is the scourge of multi-generational gangs in a family where a student has no choice since their perception of this life is normal. Gang affiliation among adolescents contributes to substance abuse, and property and violent crimes.
One of the teens said he was attending the program to get out of a gang which he had been in since he was nine because his father was in it.
Identify the problem based on informal discussions with the student, family members, friends, counselors, or administrators. PTSD is not as hard to identify as one may think if familiar with the signs and behavioral traits. Attempt to work cooperatively with school officials and family to identify the cause of the student’s behavior rather just being punitive. Punishment is necessary to establish guidelines for appropriate social behavior but if the cause isn’t identified and addressed the likelihood of future incidents is significant.
Early and consistent substance abuse treatment. The majority of highly traumatized children will abuse drugs and/or alcohol.
These students will not respond to conventional forms of overt discipline such as being yelled at publicly in class. This opens the teacher or staff member to immediate failure and losing control of the situation. These students have something to prove and while they may appear to be tough the insecurities run deep and violence is a typical outlet. The goal is to de-escalate not antagonize a potentially violent student. If a student becomes disruptive in a level yet firm voice, ask them to desist. If that fails, pull them aside to address the situation privately. These students are typically devoid of respect at home and hope to garner it through a gang affiliation or behavior. If the student has already become violent it is best to remove the other students and secure the class until assistance arrives. The violent student has something to prove and if they have an audience the situation will deteriorate. Be cognizant of school policies for restraint and discipline to allay the potential for litigation.
Out of school suspensions, while expeditious in removing the problem from the school is counter intuitive creating a dilemma thrusting the student back into the environment that contributed to his behavior- this student typically does not see suspension as a punishment. Out of school suspension creates a potential public safety issue. Students who are not in school because of violent behavior are now thrust upon the community to commit property, violent, or drug related crimes as well as fueling their behavior with drugs and alcohol in a now unsupervised environment. Alternatives would not only be an in-school suspension where constructive class work or counseling can be conducted but also mandatory attendance in an after school program if not to further address the behavior but to keep the student off the streets. Once again, Fr. Flanagan’s century old dictum rings true, “I feel that school buildings throughout the nation which stand idle after school hours are a waste of available space and the taxpayer’s money when constructive programs could be offered through their intelligent utilization.”
Gang prevention and diversion programs. There are organizations schools can contact for advise on how to set up gang prevention and diversion programs in their schools. The goal here is to demonstrate to at-risk students that there are alternatives to gang life and how to be socially responsible adults.
YDI leadership program gives at-risk teens constructive life skills, options
April 1, 2016 -- A group of 16 "Gang Involved" teens took a major step towards being productive members of society March 31, when they graduated from the renown Youth Development Inc. Gang Intervention Si Se Peude Leadership Program.
The teens, all from the Albuquerque area who have ties to local gangs, had either volunteered to enter the week-long program held during their Spring Break or were referred by school counselors or even CYFD, and Juvenile Probation.
"The kids will realize that not only did they make it, but they will have a family for life," said Michael Parra, Intervention Specialist, Gang Intervention Program.
Parra said that the symbolic T-Shirt each graduate receives has been instrumental in preventing teen violence. He recounted one recent incident at the New Mexico State Fair where two groups of teens were gearing up for a fight when one teen observed a teen from the opposing group wearing the black Si Se Puede T-Shirt. The tense situation was diffused through words and not violence.
During the Gang Intervention program the teens are exposed to numerous communication and crisis management skills through activities and group discussions. Arguably one of the most impacting experiences is the field trip to the New Mexico State Penitentiary in Santa Fe. Here the teens saw firsthand the consequences of gang behavior.
"That place was scary and it smelled so bad like urine," said one male teen who said the visit definitely changed his mind on his behavior.
Irma, said her 13-year-old son, a student at Van Buren Middle School, decided to give up his Spring Break of video games to attend the program.
He learned that he has to choose his friends and the places he goes to carefully," Irma said. "I feel they need all of this information, especially about gangs."
One teen who arguably was impacted the most was a young man who was born into the gang life. His father had been in a gang and by the time he was six, the young man had entered one of Albuquerque's most notorious gangs.
"I had already wanted to leave the gang but this program really changed my attitude," he said. "I know I had to change my life."
Judy Pacheco, Associate Director said that the Si Se Puede program has become so successful that YDI recently was notified that the state has asked them to replicate the Gang Intervention program for the CYFD Juvenile Community Corrections program in Sandoval, Valencia and Bernalillo County. The program was also replicated a couple of years ago for the 7024U program in Artesia, NM.
"This gang program is a model program across the state," said, Pacheco.
It's hard to put a finger on how many children are truly "at risk" in the Albuquerque area because so many have not been identified. Given the family gang and criminal histories of so many children, the substance abuse, unemployment, poverty, and homelessness, the number is likely to be staggering.
The Si Se Puede graduation is a time of hope for Albuquerque. Inspiration and redemption emerges. The despair and uncertainty so many of these teens live with, at least for one week, were drowned out by laughter and a sense that they can make it.
For more information on the YDI Si Se Puede program call, 505-212-7369.
City Ordinance- Continued
Pursuant to an inspection of public records request to the city clerk’s office, SWGIC discovered that since the ordinance was passed in 2007, not one gang member has been entered into the registry.
The measure, introduced by City Councilor Ken Sanchez, was intended to “give law enforcement the tools they need to fight the scourge of gang violence by defining criminal gang membership and prohibiting it in the City of Albuquerque.”
According to the city’s website (http://www.cabq.gov/police/online-services/gang-member-registration), the measure required APD to maintain a registry of convicted gang members and make that registry accessible on this website to the general public. Additionally, the ordinance called for penalties of up to $500 and 90 days in jail.
“The City of Albuquerque's decision to post gang members on this website is based on the fact that the gang member was convicted under the Anti-Gang Ordinance,” according to the city website. “The main purpose of providing this data on the Internet is to make the information more easily available and accessible, not to warn about any specific individual.”
According to the 2014 FBI Violent Gang Threat to New Mexico Report, there are over 5,000 gang members in the metro Albuquerque area. Many of these gang members are connected to drug sales, residential/commercial/vehicle thefts, and violent crime. And yet a system that was put in place by the city to enhance public awareness and safety appears to have been a veiled attempt to placate a community fed up with gang crime in the hopes it would forget about it.
The site was intended to provide information to the public concerning the identity of gang members within the Albuquerque Metropolitan area and share that information with the Bernalillo County Sheriffs Office and the New Mexico Department of Public Safety. This site was intended for police to promote public awareness concerning the potential threat that gang members pose to City of Albuquerque citizens.
The Albuquerque Police Department was tasked with establishing the registry site according to the requirements of the Gang Member Registration Ordinance or "Anti-Gang Ordinance.("http://www.cabq.gov/police/documents/Gang%20Ordinance.pdf/view) as well as update it regularly. Consequently, this has not been done and the city has provided no explanation.
Mayor Richard Berry’s office was reached for comment, who diverted the question to APD. APD spokeswoman Celina Espinoza was contacted multiple times both by phone and email and did not reply. City Councilor Ken Sanchez was contacted and his assistant said he was too busy with tax season to comment.
The city boasted the information provided on the proposed website was intended for community safety and yet no entries have been made and nobody will comment as to why or who is responsible for oversight.
Such an ordinance could have a positive impact. Pursuant to the “Broken Windows” theory that indicates when small crimes or quality of life issues are ignored it feeds the potential for more serious crime to occur. It is difficult to accurately extrapolate a cause and effect relationship, but given the lack of attention to this ordinance one can’t ignore the fact that Albuquerque has a violent crime rate twice the national average.
The issue at hand is the perception of any organized gang suppression strategy that is proactive rather than solely reactive or after-the-fact of an arrest. where gang affiliation may emerge during booking at the Metropolitan Detention Center. This ordinance could have a strong impact on public and officer safety if it would be aggressively enforced, if anything, to send the message to Albuquerque's gang members that their behavior will not be tolerated. But just like a law, the effectiveness of an ordinance is only as good as its enforcement.
New Breed- Continued:
According to the article, Texas Latino Prison Gangs: An Exploration of Generational Shift and Rebellion, Texas prison gangs younger Hispanic gang members are rebelling from traditional hierarchical organizational gang structure that established these gangs for more than a generation increasing tensions not only among other gangs but within gangs themselves.
While both the Texas Syndicate (TS) and the Texas Mexican Mafia (Eme) have vast networks throughout Texas, each has predominated in certain places. The nucleus of the TS structure is Austin (Travis County). Indeed, as one of the TS’s adopted symbols is the Texas Longhorn logo of the University of Texas at Austin, the gang is often referred to on the street as “Los Cuernos” (the Horns). As the oldest and most established Latino prison gang in Texas, the TS are most prominent in the central and eastern region and least prominent (but certainly not absent) in San Antonio. Tango Blast is a statewide confederation of Tangos from different cities that have challenged TS and the other traditional Latino prison gangs.
The Eme’s home base is widely known by justice system practitioners to be San Antonio (Bexar County), the final prison inmate sending community in the study. As the third largest city in the state, San Antonio’s influence via the Mafia and Tango Orejón is felt throughout the prison system. Over the past three to five years, however, media and correctional officials’ attention has been focused on a fierce generational-based power struggle occurring within San Antonio itself. The Eme and its former underling, Orejón, are in the midst of an intense conflict in Bexar County Jail that is creating an extraordinary level of disruption and the need for drastic, often experimental control measures.
Besides TS and Eme, a number of formidable Hispanic gangs have dotted the prison and urban landscape over time (e.g., Los Pistoleros, Raza Unida, Texas Chicano Brotherhood), each with networks in most major Texas cities. The state’s remaining largest urban center seems to stand alone in this arrangement. El Paso’s Tango-915 is affiliated with the Barrio Azteca prison gang, which in turn has ties to the Carrillo-Fuentes (Juarez) drug cartel in Chihuahua, Mexico. Two lesser-known Tangos are those representing the south Texas Valley and West Texas’ Puro Tango Blast. Like the Tangos from El Paso, these groups along with South Texas Valley’s Texas Chicano Brotherhood may now be forming stronger ties to Mexican drug cartels. Altogether, there are a total of about eight or nine different Tangos in Texas.
While many gang members would still represent their street gangs, they would still gravitate to the Tangos, one of the most dominant and violent prison gangs in Texas garnering the top spot of the Texas Department of Public Safety Gang Threat Assessment for years. Tango served as “esquina” (“backup”) for violent or political conflicts between its parent group and gangs of other races or conflicts with Latino gangs from other cities or regions. Historically, then, Tangos were not only considered foot soldiers, but the fiercely loyal among them achieved a more distinguished level of recognition that could ultimately result in one becoming a “Prospect[ive]” member of the prison gang. Each higher level of affiliation (e.g., “esquina firme”) carried both increased privileges and respect among Latino prison gangs and other inmates generally.
Tapia and his colleagues found in their research that Hispanic gang structure has historically been hierarchical in nature, organized by age-graded “klikas,” ranging from the teenage “pee-wee” sets on the streets to the more sophisticated adult prison gangs. Little is known about the prison-to-street politics that govern the gang-based activities of these groups and about the interplay among the ranks in this hierarchy.
It appears, however, that playing the role of foot soldier was not historically a rewarding experience for most Tangos. By many informal accounts, too few of them were afforded the opportunity to become full-fledged recruits despite putting in ample “work” in the penitentiary to become worthy of consideration toward membership. In short, the reward structure of the parent group failed to accommodate a large base of gang hopefuls over time. The widely heard claim among gang and non-gang members alike is that too many young inmates were being “used” and filtered out by the existing hierarchical system, leading to the disillusionment of the next generation of would-be recruits.
Anecdotal evidence from prison officials and the media found that challenges to the status quo created a new and more rebellious generation of prison-to-street hybrid groups that is challenging traditional prison gangs for control not only of the streets once they are released from prison but within the walls of the prison themselves. This subsequently has resulted in an increase in acts of violence among gang members.
The researchers found the new Tangos resist the “prison gang” label. Members of these loosely affiliated groups claim they are a support network for inmates who want to do their time peacefully and avoid coercion from traditional Latino prison gangs. According to recently filmed documentaries and other media accounts, T.A.N.G.O. has been reclaimed and re-identified by the younger generation of Latino inmates as an acronym meaning “Together Against Negative Gang Organizations”. Similarly, according to several Tango members and members of its parent group, Orejón, the San Antonio-based Tango, has also taken on a new meaning from that of the past few decades. By these accounts, O.R.E.J.O.N. is newly construed as an acronym meaning “One Race Equally Joined or Nothing,” a far cry from its original connotation as being the eyes and ears (i.e., oreja) of the Mexican Mafia.
These mantras reflect a changing mind-set among the new generation toward a horizontal versus a hierarchical structure and a new function for the Tango-type organization in Texas jails and prisons. Perhaps the most relevant policy question is whether a transition from the defensive posturing of Tangos to one in which they assume the organizational characteristics of the traditional gangs is inevitable.
Stemming from the idea that inmates establish order among themselves on a level below that of official facility governance, it gives rise to the inmate code and development of convict norms. Issues such as overcrowding, scarce resources, and cultural or racial differences create the need for sub-governance. However, when a larger proportion of inmates have never served time, the norms associated with the inmate code are less effective where “new inmates misinterpret and disregard signaling mechanisms and disrupt the social system more frequently”.
When new inmates are unfamiliar with the convict code, they are reprimanded or perhaps bullied by inmate leaders, who in effect, are also the prison gang leaders. The newer class of inmates eventually reaches some tipping point in terms of size or shared negative experiences, then seeks an alternate method of providing governance, and hence, a new organization is born in the facility.
As with street gangs, there are varying levels of individual involvement by prison gang members, from associate to core member, replete with routine attempts to conceal one’s level of affiliation. This fluidity is important to understanding the ambiguous nature of the Tango population in Texas, as they are characterized by justice system practitioners as a “hybrid” group that is neither a prison nor a street gang per se.
A competing explanation of why this is occurring might draw on period effects, wherein status frustration reaches a tipping point after several decades of an overtly restrictive and unrewarding hierarchical structure that abused its power over younger, willing foot soldiers. This type of explanation would not necessarily require a critical mass of younger inmates to overpower the traditional prison gangs, but a change in their group psychology as an evolution of rational actor sensibilities. Other potential explanations are changes in opportunities for lucrative street activities, that is, the availability of drug market connections, access to weapons, the flooding of such markets by Mexican cartels, and so on, wherein younger cohorts are less reliant on older prison gang members. To investigate this further warrants methodological triangulation, perhaps involving formal interviews of law enforcement and gang members themselves to learn more about the nature and intensity of intergenerational conflict.
One problem that arises with this cohort-driven approach is that the interaction of age and place becomes complex outside of jail or prison walls in terms of Tango loyalties. Whereas “inside,” affiliations and rules for comportment relative to other groups is rather clear-cut; keen observers of these groups’ “free world” dealings know that faction loyalties are far more tenuous on the street.
Tapia found that although faction-based dynamics are seemingly fueled by frustration among the younger inmates with the status quo, one of the nuances alluded to above is that many younger inmates, for familial reasons, and out of preference for the lore or prestige that for so long has characterized the traditional Latino prison gangs, continue to be recruited into these older gangs. Therefore, age is not an absolute determinant of Tango membership. This is a problem in the opposite direction as well, where some former inmates who were Tango members in the 1990s, and who never graduated to prison gang member status are now well into their 30s and 40s, further complicating the use of age to demarcate gang factions.
An analysis that shows that the “pool” of Tango-eligible members was larger now than in years past will make a better case that a “critical mass” has formed to rebel against the old guard (mafia and syndicate).
MS-13 on the rise in Texas, New Mexico
The 2015 Texas Department of Public Safety Gang Threat Assessment has increased Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) to a Tier 1 gang threat in the state (1). According to the report, “The influx of illegal alien gang members crossing the border into Texas in 2014, along with reports of extremely violent murders committed by its members in the Houston area, positions the gang as one of the most significant gang threats in the state for this upcoming year. Although a large number of MS-13 members have been captured along the border, it is likely many more have successfully crossed into Texas and remain hidden from law enforcement. Gang members from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador could be destined for locations in Texas with large Central American communities, including the Houston and Dallas areas.” (1)
Houston has been identified as having the highest number of MS 13 members in Texas. Both local and federal law enforcement officials in Texas and New Mexico have observed an incursion into the region.
The implications of the exponential flood of more than 66,127 unaccompanied children recorded by the U.S. Border Patrol by the end of August 2014 (2), and counting, entering the United States over the past year from the Central American nations of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala presented the country with what President Barack Obama proclaimed in June as an “urgent humanitarian situation” (3) prompting an unprecedented federal response whereby he ordered Craig Fugate, administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency, to establish an interagency Uniformed Coordination Group that included federal, state, and local entities (4). Consequently, neither the Department of Homeland Security, municipal law enforcement, social or educational institutions throughout the country was and is prepared to expeditiously, efficiently, and humanely manage this crisis.
What has escaped all but a few conversations is the short and long term implications of this flood of children haphazardly being placed in detention or residential settings, or released to family members and how it can precipitate a fertile recruiting opportunity for gangs such as MS (Mara Salvatrucha)-13and the 18th Street Gang who already have assimilation with this diaspora, putting not only domestic but regional security in jeopardy in the very near future.
Since 2009 the numbers of unaccompanied alien children up to 17-years-old, as they are designated by Customs and Border Protection under the aegis of the Department of Homeland Security, has grown exponentially with children from Honduras representing the largest diaspora followed by Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico (2). In 2009, the U.S. Border Patrol recorded apprehending 968 Honduran children, compared to the August 31, figure of 17,975. In the same time periods, the rate of Guatemalan children jumped from 1,115 in 2009 to 16,528 in 2014 followed by El Salvador with 1,221 apprehended children in 2009 and 15,800 in 2014. Surprisingly, there was a slight dip in apprehension of Mexican children from 16,114 in 2009 to 14,702 in 2014 (2).
The U.S. Border Patrol sector hardest hit by this flood of children was the Rio Grande Valley Sector (2), a wide swathe of southeast Texas encompassing 320 river miles, 250 coastal miles and 19 counties equating to over 17,000 square miles (5). It is this eastern route along the Gulf of Mexico that is the most logical especially for Honduran migrants with the journey starting in Tenosique in Tabasco State on the 1,500 journey to the U.S. border (6). It is also among the most dangerous with an untold number dying before they even make it to the U.S. side. In 2010, at the beginning of the major surge in Central American migration north, 72 migrants were massacred by Los Zetas on a ranch outside the town of San Fernando, Tamualipas State (7). Once the migrants have crossed into the U.S. their fate is no less tenuous. The Rio Grande Valley Sector has seen a marked increase in U.S. Border Patrol reported deaths while the Tucson Sector is seeing their fatalities drop (8). In 2010 the Rio Grande Valley Sector reported 29 deaths in 2010. That number has increased to a remarkable 156 by the end of FY 2013. In contrast, Tucson Sector reported 251 deaths in 2010 and 194 in 2013.
Fugate was tasked with finding emergency housing for these children that exceeded the capabilities of existing Health and Human Services, who is responsible for immigrant children, facilities around the country. By the middle of the summer, the Department of Health and Human Services, said children had been placed in every state where there was a parent, relative or family friend able and willing to take them in while they are in the deportation process. Some estimates suggest that these children will not even have a first hearing for more than a year, possibly a year and a half. At that point the likelihood of them even appearing before the judge for fear of being deported is remote. The states with the largest number of children placed were, Texas: 4,280; New York: 3,347; Florida: 3,181; California: 3,150; and, Virginia: 2,234 (9). Incidentally, these are already hotbeds of MS-13 activity.
While the current humanitarian crisis is daunting, it is not the first large influx of Central Americans into the U.S. During the 13-year Civil War in El Salvador that ran between 1979-1992, Approximately 334,000 reported entering the U.S. between 1985 and 1990 compared to 45,000 between 1970 and 1974 (9), bringing the current crisis on par with this last flood of people fleeing Central America. Out of this migration came the creation of MS-13 on the streets of Los Angeles. With many of the founding members devoid of U.S. citizenship, they were deported back to El Salvador where the climate of virtual lawlessness allowed them to flourish and evolve into the violent transnational criminal organization it is today. MS-13 elements returning to El Salvador, and Honduras, actively pursued new members whether through intimidation, protection, or an option for self- preservation against the other gangs roaming the country, especially the streets of Chaelecon, the most dangerous of barrios in San Pedro Sula, Honduras which is now considered the deadliest city in the world (111). Currently, there is a litany of reasons for the surge of migration this year, especially of unaccompanied children. Arguably the most feasible explanation being the murder rates in the Central American region has risen substantially. Elizabeth G. Kennedy, a Fulbright scholar, has been studying the issue on the ground and told the Arizona Republic (12) gang violence in El Salvador and in urban areas of Guatemala has escalated dramatically in recent months since a weak truce among rival gangs has evaporated. She interviewed more than 400 child migrants. For many, Kennedy said, "their decision is: Do I face possible death in migrating or sure death in staying?" Kennedy told the Arizona republic.
According to the United Nations Global Study on Homicide 2013 which reflects 2012 murders, Honduras topped the list as the country with the highest murder rate in the world with 90.4 victims per 100,000 inhabitants. El Salvador was fourth with 41.2 murders per 100,000 behind Venezuela, 53.7; and Belize, 44.7. Guatemala ranked fifth with 39.8 per 100,000 (13).A 2009 military coup in Honduras left the country in a greater state of instability, with gangs such as MS-13 filling the void or replacing legitimate law enforcement services (14). Additional reasons for the mass exodus of children from Central America are family reunification, poverty and fear of violence from local criminal organizations (14).
As naïve as his gesture may have been Customs and Border Protection Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikoske made an overly optimistic statement in regards to efforts being made by the U.S State Department and the White House to reach out to the feeder Central American nations to address the reasons why their citizens are fleeing. “They hope to address the conditions in Central America that are spurring the migration and ways that we can together assure faster, secure repatriation of these children and families,” Kerlikowske said. (14). With the causes of the migration, especially the violence and lack of internal security in these countries, the likelihood of any immediate remedies is remote since the U.S. government has been well aware of these conditions since the civil war raged and was supported by Washington more than 25 years ago.
With all of this being said, the question can’t be ignored whether history will repeat itself with the risk factor of gang and transnational criminal organization affiliation of even a small percentage of these children, which would be boom to MS-13 operations, the ingredients exist. These children undoubtedly currently have and will for some time language barriers. Despite the good intentions of even the most sincere family member or friend domestic instability will exist. There will very likely be a lack of supervision since whomever is tasked with supervising the children will likely need to work. There will be the social alienation of acutely being immersed in a new society and culture and the concurrent needs of group unity, cultural or ethnic association, protection, and the already inherent exposure to violence and criminal activity as a means to get what you want they were confronted with in their home countries.
“The migration of MS-13 members and other Hispanic street gang members, such as 18th Street, from Southern California to other regions of this country has led to a rapid proliferation of these gangs in many smaller, suburban, and rural areas not accustomed to gang activity and related crimes,” Chris Swecker, Assistant Director, Criminal Investigative Division for the FBI told the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere House International Relations Committee in 2005. “Additionally, the deportation of MS-13 and 18th Street gang members from the United States to their countries of origin is partially responsible for the growth of those gangs in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico, although the precise of this responsibility is unknown.” (16).
Swecker went on to say, and there is little evidence that indicates circumstances have changed little for MS-13 over the past nine years, that based upon the National Gang Threat Assessment conducted by the National Alliance of Gang Investigators Association, MS-13 members and associates now have a presence in more than 31 states and the District of Columbia. MS-13 has a significant presence in Northern Virginia, New York, California, Texas, as well as in places as disparate and widespread as Oregon City, Oregon, and Omaha, Nebraska. (14). When we see the overlap of states where children have recently been placed by DHHS, California, Texas, and Virginia, the risk for recruiting increases exponentially. With a projected influx of 90,000 unaccompanied Central American children into the U.S. by the end of FY2014, it would be hard to imagine MS-13 and the 18th Street Gang wouldn’t be actively recruiting let alone not already incorporated into the current diaspora.
After the large scale deportations of MS-13 began in the early 1990s back to El Salvador and Honduras, they took advantage of the opportunity to explore new opportunities there and recruit among the disenfranchised youth there. By 2005, gangs in El Salvador swelled to 10,000 “hard core” members and 20,000 “associates. In Honduras, the picture was even more disturbing with an estimated gang population of 40,000 (17).
It didn’t take long for MS-13 to establish a foothold in Mexico that eventually extended from the southern state of Chiapas along the eastern coast to Tamaulipas and develop relations with Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations. As recently as May 2014 three MS-13 members were sent from Los Angeles to the Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn., area to exact revenge for the Sinaloa MDTO for 30 pounds of stolen methamphetamine(17). But it is the geographic infiltration into Mexico that makes MS-13 a logical cohort for Los Zetas. A 2012 report indicated a budding partnership between MS-13 and Lose Zetas in Guatemala, where the paramilitary MDTO has trained MS-13 members in paramilitary training and equipment with MS-13 providing intelligence and contract crimes (19).
If there is any question whether MS-13 has infiltrated new blood during this youth surge across the southwest border a comment made to a journalist from www.Townhall.com by a U.S. Border Patrol agent is indicative of the virulent threats being posed under the guise of humanitarianism. "We have six minors in Nogales who have admitted to killing and doing grievous bodily injuries. One admitted to killing as young as eight years old," said the agent who requested anonymity (20). Despite the youth’s admission, the agent said he is waiting to be placed.
While the majority of children are here to be reunited with family or escape violence, the threat cannot be ignored that MS-13 will likely flourish in this era of Central American immigrants. Law enforcement in the majority of cities where MS-13 has a foothold already knows they are there however the question comes into play whether there are existing resources to mitigate or thwart recruiting efforts as well as the concurrent crime that will be likely. Schools and social services will be doing all they can do just to accommodate the new arrivals. As far north as Long Island, where more than 2,200 school age children were placed over the summer school districts scrambled to develop educational accommodations and the money to pay for it. One of the most daunting issues, besides money is English instruction The cost to educate these new arrivals is expected to tip the scales at $761.4 million (19). One Long Island administrator did recognize the plethora of issues these children are facing. “The challenge is not only dealing with the academics but also the socio-economic piece,” said Terri Brady-Mendez, program director, for ESL Bilingual Programs at Eastern Suffolk BOCES. “These kids are bringing an enormous amount of experience that probably won’t help them in their concentration. I am sure that we will need some sort of support network set up, including bilingual councilors and other staff.”
Pursuant to the historical data from 20 years ago and the proliferation of MS-13 as arguably the most violent TCO in the world, it is incumbent on federal, state, and local law enforcement, educational, and social service institutions to begin dialogues on how to recognize the threat of MS-13 recruiting efforts and how to create an environment for these children to avoid the clutches of the very violent groups they risked their lives to escape from in their home countries.
The surge of unaccompanied children crossing the Southwest Border over the past three years has greatly contributed to the rise of MS 13 throughout the U.S., and in the Southwest in particular. Public, educational, and law enforcement agencies need to work cohesively to identify demographic and behavioral trends that may impact police and public safety.
1. Accessed from, https://www.dps.texas.gov/director_staff/media_and_communications/2015/txGang ThreatAssessment.pdf
2. Accessed from, http://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/stats/southwest-border-unaccompanied-children
3. Presidential Memorandum -- Response to the Influx of Unaccompanied Alien Children Across the Southwest Border, June 2, 2014. Accessed from, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press office/2014/06/02/presidential-memorandum-response-influx-unaccompanied-alien-children-acr
4. Preston, Julia, New U.S. Effort to Aid Unaccompanied Child Migrants, accessed from, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/03/us/politics/new-us-effort-to- aid-unaccompanied-child-migrants.html?
5. Accessed from, http://www.cbp.gov/border-security/along-us-borders/border-patrol-sectors/rio-grande-valley-sector-texas
6. Corchado, Alfredo, Central American migrants face grueling journey north. Accessed from, http://res.dallasnews.com/interactives/migrantroute/.
7. Zetas Massacre 72 Illegal Immigrants in San Fernando, Tamaulipas. Accessed from, http://www.borderlandbeat.com/2010/08/zetas-massacre-72- illegal-immigrants-in.html.
8. Accessed from, http://www.cbp.gov/sites/default/files/documents/U.S.%20Border%20Patrol%20Fiscal%20Year%20Statistics%20SWB%20Sector%20Deaths%20FY1998%20-%20FY2013.pdf
9. Slattery, Graham, Migrant children: All 50 states are housing them, but not to the same degree. Accessed from, http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/USA- Update/2014/0725/Migrant-children-All-50-states-are-housing-them-but-not-to-the-same-degree-video. June 25, 2014.
10. Gammage, Sarah, El Salvador: Despite End to Civil War, Emigration Continues. Accessed from http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/el-salvador- despite-end-civil-war-emigration-continues/, July 26, 2007.
11. Wilkinson,Tracy, The Honduras neighborhood of Chamelecon is a network of gang turfs where residents’ survival depends on playing by gang rules. Accessed from htt[://www.latimes.com/world/la-fg-cl-honduras-violence-20131216-dto-html. Sept. 18, 2014.
12. United Nations Global Study on Homicide 2013. Accessed from, http://www.unodc.org/gsh/
13. Diana Villiers Negroponte, The Surge in Unaccompanied Children from Central America: A Humanitarian Crisis at Our Border. Accessed from http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/up-front/posts/2014/07/02-unaccompanied-children-central-america-negroponte, July 2, 2014.
14. CBP addresses humanitarian challenges of unaccompanied child migrants. Accessed from http://www.cbp.gov/border-security/humanitarian challenges. Sept. 11, 2014.
15. Accessed from, www.fbi.gov. Chris Swecker Assistant Director, Criminal Investigative Division Federal Bureau of Investigation Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere House International Relations Committee Washington, DC, April 20, 2005.
16. Arana, Ana, How the street gangs took Central America, Foreign Affairs, May/June 2005.
17. Mexican cartel allegedly hired MS-13 to carry out torture operation in Minnesota. Accessed from, http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/news/2014/05/06/mexican-cartel-allegedly-hired-ms-13-to-carry-out-torture-operation-in/. May 7, 2014.
18. Zetas and MS-13 join forces in Guatemala. Accessed from http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/news/2012/04/07/zetas-and-ms-13-join-forces-in- guatemala/. April 7, 2012.
19. Pavelich, Kate, Illegal unaccompanied minors being held for placement in U.S. admit to engaging in torture and murder. Accessed from, http://townhall.com/tipsheet/katiepavlich/2014/07/08/exclusive-unaccompanied-minors-admit-to-being-ms13-gang-members-engaging-in-torture- and-murder-n1859822. July 8, 2014.
20. Ramos, Victor Manuel, LI schools face influx of unaccompanied immigrant children, Long Island Newsday, Sept. 7, 2014.
While the RICO statute has been successfully utilized against Barrio Azteca, Aryan Brotherhood, and even MS13, investigations can be lengthy and costly discouraging some jurisdictions to forego the opportunity. However, unlike RICO, VICAR can actually be much more streamlined and easier to prove. The VICAR statute has been on the federal books since 1959 but a surprisingly few jurisdictions are even aware of it. It can serve as a valuable prosecutorial adjunct in states such as New Mexico that do not have gang laws.
According to 18 U.S. Code § 1959 - Violent crimes in aid of racketeering activity, whoever, as consideration for the receipt of, or as consideration for a promise or agreement to pay, anything of pecuniary value from an enterprise engaged in racketeering activity, or for the purpose of gaining entrance to or maintaining or increasing position in an enterprise engaged in racketeering activity, murders, kidnaps, maims, assaults with a dangerous weapon, commits assault resulting in serious bodily injury upon, or threatens to commit a crime of violence against any individual in violation of the laws of any State or the United States, or attempts or conspires so to do, shall be punished—
(1) for murder, by death or life imprisonment, or a fine under this title, or both; and for kidnapping, by imprisonment for any term of years or for life, or a fine under this title, or both;
(2) for maiming, by imprisonment for not more than thirty years or a fine under this title, or both;
(3) for assault with a dangerous weapon or assault resulting in serious bodily injury, by imprisonment for not more than twenty years or a fine under this title, or both;
(4) for threatening to commit a crime of violence, by imprisonment for not more than five years or a fine under this title, or both;
(5) for attempting or conspiring to commit murder or kidnapping, by imprisonment for not more than ten years or a fine under this title, or both; and
(6) for attempting or conspiring to commit a crime involving maiming, assault with a dangerous weapon, or assault resulting in serious bodily injury, by imprisonment for not more than three years or a fine of under this title, or both.
“The results of this investigation demonstrate the resolve of the law enforcement community in New Mexico to work together to make our communities safer and better places to live, work and raise families.” U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez said.
VICAR is an underutilized federal statute at the disposal of state and municipal jurisdictions who may be frustrated with the absence of gang laws in New Mexico or lax sentencing. It is incumbent upon these jurisdictions to work cooperatively with federal agencies such as the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations, the DEA, and ATF, who have successfully developed and prosecuted VICAR cases against gang members, to disrupts and dismantle gang activity in their communities.
Copyright SWIGC 2016
Traditionally, the thinking has been if criminal acts or suspect gang affiliation is released it will empower the gang through the notoriety it is receiving in the media. What is actually occurring through this ostensible news blackout is exactly what is trying to be avoided. If you don’t recognize the problem, it won’t go away. Media blackout of the gang affiliation lends the perception that police do not know who is committing the crimes as well as potentially impeding tips from the community. The community may not know the name of a specific individual, but they usually know the gangs and where they hang out. There needs to be a paradigm shift with this line of thinking.
The historic relationship between law enforcement and the media has been tenuous at best but when they work cooperatively and strategically together, there are mutual benefits not only shared by both entities but, most importantly, the public wellbeing.
On May 29, The Chicago Tribune reported a 20-year-old rapper was murdered after recording a song insulting rival gangs. Police told the paper the rapper was a Gangster Disciple in the Uptown neighborhood plagued by rivalries between the Conservative Vice Lords, the Gangster Disciples and the Black P Stones.
The information obtained by The Tribune was not released from the command level. The Chicago PD’s Public Information Office’s policy is not to release the names of gangs associated with crimes. According to an editor for The Tribune, that information was likely obtained on the street level.
Ironically, federal agencies, such as Homeland Security Investigations, typically release gang affiliation. This bewilders veteran Chicago crime reporter Jeremy Gorner.
“I think it’s kind of strange that municipal departments don’t but the feds do,” Gorner said. “If agencies are so quick to release terror group affiliations, then why not gangs?”
Gorner says that failing to release gang affiliations leaves the public guessing as to who is committing crime in their neighborhood, who to protect their children from, or what criminal elements are now coming into a neighborhood.
“I don’t see the harm in educating the community as to the root causes of crime and if gangs are committing them,” Gorner said.
This is a valid point. While gangs in many cities still claim territorial roots, many have transcended this model to operate in other areas to take advantage of narcotic sale opportunities.
The need for a closer relationship between the media and law enforcement in gang prevention and suppression can’t be ignored. There are more than 33,000 recognized street and outlaw motorcycle gangs in the U.S. Many police departments are facing staffing shortages where they are barely able to maintain a reasonable response time for basic calls for service, let alone the implementation of strategic gang prevention initiatives. Yet, many community officials attempt to quash any reference to a “gang problem” in their community because of the adverse impact it can have on the local economy. These are not strategies to address gang related enterprises such as drug and human trafficking, extortion, and violence.
This policy is frequently shared by law enforcement. The impression of many departments is not to release the gang affiliation of a suspect out of concern it provides that gang with unwarranted publicity and empowerment.
One area commander, who declined to provide his name, said educating the public by using the media is a good idea.
Cara Tabachnick, a veteran crime reporter and deputy director of the Center for Media, Crime and Justice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York agrees.
“If releasing the gang affiliation is germane to an arrest or the public safety, it can create a greater level of trust in what the police are doing to assure their safety and enhance collaborative relationships,” Tabachnick said.
Rather than an unwelcome inconvenience, the media can be seen and used as a force multiplier empowering the community to cooperate more readily with police. Gorner agrees that this relationship can open untapped avenues and resources among community members.
Implementing an open dialogue with media sources to identify gangs in a community can be done while still protecting an investigation. Adhere to professional rules of ethics but still, within the confines of an investigation, refer to the suspect’s gang affiliation as “alleged,” “suspected,” or “reputed.” Many times the affiliation will be admitted to by the suspect.
Releasing gang affiliation to media upon arrest of suspects demonstrates a target specific effort by police. The community knows there are gangs. Ignoring the issue contributes to community apathy. Demonstrating that gangs are being dismantled/disrupted will improve community relations and cooperation. Once the community is involved and better informed, they will be more apt to provide information.
Copyright SWGIC 2015