Impending Violence Report

by JASON | 11:00 AM in |

About 30,000 violent street gangs, motorcycle gangs, and prison gangs with approximately 800,000 members operate in the U.S. today. Many are sophisticated and well organized; all use violence to control neighborhoods and boost their illegal money-making activities, which include drug trafficking, robbery, theft, fraud, extortion, prostitution rings, and gun trafficking.

Let's break it down:

(1) Gangs -

Gangs are present in every state and U.S. territory and some particularly violent urban gangs have expanded from inner cities to suburban and some rural areas. Gangs increasingly represent a threat to many smaller communities, and they control most retail-level drug distribution nationally. Gangs are also increasing their involvement in wholesale-level drug distribution.

There are no precise estimates regarding total gang membership and the number of active gangs in the United States. However, in 2006 the National Youth Gang Center estimated that there were approximately 785,000 active street gang members aged 12 to 24 in the United States. Analysis of 2008 law enforcement survey data and reporting supports the 2006 findings--and, in fact, 2008 data indicate that the total number of gang members of all ages may be significantly higher. Moreover, state department of corrections data show that as of May 2008 approximately 123,000 documented street and prison gang members were incarcerated in state correctional facilities.25 BOP data show that in August 2008, 24,163 of 201,000 inmates in federal prisons were identified as individuals affiliated with a Security Threat Group,26 including gangs.

NDTS data for 2008 indicate that gang influence over drug trafficking in the United States is stable or increasing slightly. According to 2008 NDTS data, 58 percent of state and local law enforcement agencies throughout the country report that street gangs are active in drug trafficking in their areas, an increase from 2006 (55%) and stable since 2007 (58%). NDTS data also show that the percentage of agencies reporting OMG involvement in drug trafficking in their areas also remained relatively stable from 2006 (35%) to 2007 (36%) to 2008 (36%).

Strategic Findings

* Gangs are becoming increasingly involved in wholesale-level drug trafficking, aided by their connections with drug trafficking organizations, particularly Mexican and Asian DTOs.

* Gangs are increasingly conducting criminal activity across the U.S.-Mexico and U.S.-Canada borders.

* Gangs pose a growing problem for law enforcement along the U.S.-Canada border, particularly the border areas in the New England and Pacific Regions.

Gangs are becoming increasingly involved in wholesale-level drug trafficking, aided by their connections with drug trafficking organizations, particularly Mexican and Asian DTOs. Gangs are active in drug distribution, particularly at the retail level, throughout the United States, and their involvement in drug distribution at the wholesale level is increasing. According to law enforcement reporting and survey data, gangs are involved in drug distribution, primarily at the retail level, in every state in the country, particularly in urban and suburban areas but also in many rural communities. NDTS data show that marijuana is the drug most commonly distributed by gangs, followed by powder cocaine, crack, methamphetamine, heroin, MDMA, and diverted pharmaceuticals, respectively.

Many gangs have recently expanded their influence over drug distribution to include more wholesale distribution. Gangs have developed or strengthened relationships with transnational criminal organizations and DTOs, gaining access to international sources of supply for larger shipments of illicit drugs that they then distribute. Mexican drug traffickers affiliated with the Sinaloa, Gulf, Juárez, and Tijuana Cartels27 maintain working relationships with at least 20 street gangs, prison gangs, and OMGs (see Table 5) that operate in urban and suburban communities throughout the country. These affiliations have significantly increased the availability of illicit drugs in many of these areas. Moreover, several Asian criminal organizations and DTOs work closely with at least eight Asian street gangs that operate within suburban locales (see Table 6).

(2) DTOs -

Drug trafficking organizations are a persistent and evolving domestic criminal threat and are a significant concern to federal, state, and local law enforcement officials. Mexican and, to a lesser extent, Asian DTOs are the leading DTOs operating in the United States. Colombian, Dominican, Cuban, and Italian DTOs also distribute significant quantities of illicit drugs in the United States. Mexican and Asian traffickers have extended their influence in U.S. drug markets. Colombian and Dominican DTOs transport large quantities of drugs into the United States for distribution; however, their direct influence over drug distribution in U.S. drug markets is declining. Cuban DTOs are increasingly engaging in indoor and outdoor cannabis cultivation, and their distribution networks are growing. Italian criminal organizations are smuggling and distributing wholesale quantities of drugs while reestablishing trafficking networks. Each of these DTOs continually develops new methods of operation, constantly reacting to law enforcement pressure and changing laws.
Strategic Findings

* Mexican DTOs are the greatest drug trafficking threat to the United States; they control most of the U.S. drug market and have established varied transportation routes, advanced communications capabilities, and strong affiliations with gangs in the United States.

* Asian DTOs control a large portion of the wholesale- and retail-level distribution of high-potency marijuana and MDMA in many U.S. drug markets.

* Colombian, Dominican, and Cuban DTOs, and Italian criminal organizations are involved in national-level wholesale drug trafficking. These groups pose a considerable domestic threat, albeit lower than that posed by Mexican and Asian DTOs.

Mexican DTOs are the greatest drug trafficking threat to the United States; they control most of the U.S. drug market and have established varied transportation routes, advanced communications capabilities, and strong affiliations with gangs in the United States. Mexican DTOs control a greater portion of drug production, transportation, and distribution than any other criminal group or DTO. Their extensive drug trafficking activities in the United States generate billions of dollars in illicit proceeds annually. Law enforcement reporting indicates that Mexican DTOs maintain drug distribution networks or supply drugs to distributors in at least 230 U.S. cities. (See Map A5 in Appendix A.) Mexican drug traffickers transport multiton quantities of drugs from Mexico into the United States annually using overland, maritime, and air conveyances. The use of varied conveyances enables Mexican drug traffickers to consistently deliver illicit drugs from Mexico to warehouse locations in the United States for subsequent distribution.

Mexico- and U.S.-based Mexican drug traffickers employ advanced communication technology and techniques to coordinate their illicit drug trafficking activities. Law enforcement reporting indicates that several Mexican DTOs maintain cross-border communication centers in Mexico near the U.S.-Mexico border to facilitate coordinated cross-border smuggling operations. These centers are staffed by DTO members who use an array of communication methods, such as Voice over Internet Protocol, satellite technology (broadband satellite instant messaging), encrypted messaging, cell phone technology, two-way radios, scanner devices, and text messaging, to communicate with members. In some cases DTO members use high-frequency radios with encryption and rolling codes to communicate during cross-border operations.

Mexican DTOs continue to strengthen their relationships with U.S-based street gangs, prison gangs, and OMGs for the purpose of expanding their influence over domestic drug distribution. Although gangs do not appear to be part of any formal Mexican DTO structure, several Mexican DTOs use U.S.-based gangs to smuggle and distribute drugs, collect drug proceeds, and act as enforcers. Mexican DTOs' use of gang members for these illegal activities insulates DTO cell members from law enforcement detection. Members of most Mexican Cartels--Sinaloa, Gulf, Juárez, and Tijuana (see footnote 28)--maintain working relationships with many street gangs and OMGs.28

Cartel hit on this side of the border with imitation SWAT raid

Main Index

Roll that phrase around in your mind one more time. Competition in the business of trafficking illegal drugs almost certainly means violence. But the Mexican DTOs have proven themselves to be capable of unbounded levels of well-armed and bizarrely cruel violence — from attacking police stations with rockets, to rolling severed heads into bars, to boiling bodies in vats of acid. If a U.S.-based gang or gangs goes up against the Mexican DTOs, a blood bath could result. In this regard, it is worth remembering that the Mexican DTOs basically did to the Colombian cartels what this pregnant line suggests: grew up and took over the old Colombian drug distribution system.

Meanwhile, the private global intelligence firm Stratfor, has released the following assessment of the future of tortured Mexico in its (subscription) Annual Forecast 2009 for Latin America:

Regional Trend: Mexico’s Cartel Crisis Will Build

At the time of this writing, there are no reasons to expect the level of violence in Mexico’s cartel wars to lessen. The death toll of drug-related violence in 2008 was about 5,700, more than twice the previous year’s figure. There are no signs that competition among the cartels is diminishing, and the government does not appear to be letting up on its assault on the cartels. The cartels have demonstrated the ability to undermine the effectiveness of law enforcement around the country and have even demonstrated the ability to strike at government targets in Mexico City. An increase in either the frequency of attacks or the severity of intimidation tactics by cartels against Mexican law enforcement is all but certain. Escalation could include the use of devices such as car bombs and other methods of targeted assassination. As the global recession generates more unemployment, the likelihood of more violence, civil unrest, rising crime and a surge of cartel recruits will only increase.

But although Stratfor sees the situation in Mexico on a continued downward spiral, we do not envision a sharp escalation of violence spilling into the United States in 2009. The cartels must balance the need to move their product across the border with their need to fight law enforcement interference, and it is not in their interest to provoke a substantive response from the United States. For now, Mexican cartels use U.S. street and prison gangs to manage drug distribution and retail inside the United States. That relationship will continue, and potentially increase during 2009, but not to the extent that the cartels’ bases of operations will move north of the border. An increase in cartel-related gang violence in the United States is likely in 2009, but a massive increase in cartel violence that severely impacts U.S. civilians - or a high-profile increase in cartel corruption of U.S. politicians and law enforcement (congruent to the situation on the Mexican side of the border) - would be counterproductive. As long as that is true, the side effects of the cartel war that spill over the border will remain a law enforcement challenge - as opposed to an existential threat - for the United States.

California has experienced street gang problems for more than 70 years. Professionals who work with Hispanic street gangs should take the time to examine street gang history. Many current gang activities and rivalries can be traced back to the origins of specific gangs. One gang which particularly warrants study is the 18th Street gang. Because of its growth and recruitment patterns from the 1960s until present, the 18th Street gang is one of the largest, most well-known Hispanic street gangs in the nation.

18th Street has extended its reach well beyond the Los Angeles area, and expanded into many other states, Mexico, and Canada during the 1990s. Law enforcement officers have encountered 18th Street members in central and northern California, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Georgia, and on Native American lands. The membership of 18th Street in California alone is estimated by law enforcement officers at more than 30,000. Intelligence information indicates that there may be as many as 30 different subsets/cliques of 18th Street in California. This huge membership is the result of a massive 18th Street recruitment program in the early 1990s, which also resulted in the expansion of 18th Street to many western and Midwestern states.

Mexico Meltdown Approaches Warp Speed

MEXICO CITY -Press freedom groups are condemning an attack on a Mexican television station in the northern city of Monterrey. Masked gunmen opened fire and tossed a grenade at the Televisa network's studio as it aired a nightly newscast. The assailants left behind a message warning the station about its coverage of drug gangs.

Frank Flores of the Los Angeles Police Department told the convention that MS-13 today is recruiting members not just from El Salvador, but from the Hispanic community at large and even from Los Angeles' African-American community.

Flores told the group that the Mexican Mafia controls the Hispanic groups in California from within the state prisons.

"Gangs like MS-13 or the 18th Street Gang have a history that goes back into the 1980s," Flores explained. "The Mexican Mafia is organized as a crime hierarchy, along the model of the Sicilian Mafia. The big money business for the Hispanic gangs still is drugs. All through Los Angeles any gang or gang member who wants to deal drugs is going to have to pay 'rent' to EME [the Mexican Mafia], or else they are out of business and most likely dead."

Gang-related activity in the US military is increasing and poses a threat to law enforcement officials and national security. Members of nearly every major street gang have been identified on both domestic and international military installations. Although most prevalent in the Army, the Army Reserves, and the National Guard, gang activity is pervasive throughout all branches of the military and across most ranks, but is most common among the junior enlisted ranks. The extent of gang presence in the armed services is often difficult to determine since many enlisted gang members conceal their gang affiliation and military authorities may not recognize gang affiliation or may be inclined not to report such incidences. The military enlistment of gang members could ultimately lead to the worldwide expansion of US-based gangs.

Gang members may enlist in the military to escape their current environment or gang lifestyle. Some gang members may also enlist to receive weapons, combat, and convoy support training; to obtain access to weapons and explosives; or as an alternative to incarceration. Upon discharge, they may employ their military training against law enforcement officials and rival gang members. Such military training could ultimately result in more organized, sophisticated, and deadly gangs, as well as an increase in deadly assaults on law enforcement officers.

Gang incidents involving active-duty personnel on or near US military bases nationwide include drive-by shootings, assaults, robberies, drug distribution, weapons violations, domestic disturbances, vandalism, extortion, and money laundering. Gangs have also been known to use active-duty service members to distribute their drugs.

Military-trained gang members also present an emerging threat to law enforcement officers patrolling the streets of US cities. Both current and former gang-affiliated soldiers transfer their acquired military training and knowledge back to the community and employ them against law enforcement officers, who are typically not trained to engage gangsters with military expertise.

While allowing gang members to serve in the military may temporarily increase recruiting numbers, US communities may ultimately have to contend with disruption and violence resulting from military-trained gang members on the streets of US cities. Furthermore, most gang members have been pre-indoctrinated into the gang lifestyle and maintain an allegiance to their gang. This could ultimately jeopardize the safety of other military members and impede gang-affiliated soldiers’ ability to act in the best interest of their country.

Gang activity in the military is increasing, and the number of gang-related crimes involving soldiers and their families nearly tripled from fiscal 2005 to fiscal 2006, according to a pair of new reports.

Both studies note that gang members represent only a small fraction of the total force, but say that gangs have become a bigger presence — and a bigger concern — in just the last few years.

“Gang-related activity in the military is increasing and poses a threat to law enforcement officials and national security,” according to the FBI’s National Gang Intelligence Center report, released in January.

GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — U.S. criminal gangs have gained a foothold in the U.S. military and are using overseas deployments to spread tentacles around the globe, according to the FBI.

FBI gang investigator Jennifer Simon said in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes this week that gang members have been documented on or near U.S. military bases in Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea and Iraq.

“It’s no secret that gang members are prevalent in the armed forces, including internationally,” Simon said, adding that the FBI is preparing to release a report on gangs in the military.

Evidence of gang culture and gang activity in the military is increasing so much an FBI report calls it "a threat to law enforcement and national security." The signs are chilling: Marines in gang attire on Parris Island; paratroopers flashing gang hand signs at a nightclub near Ft. Bragg; infantrymen showing-off gang tattoos at Ft. Hood.

"It's obvious that many of these people do not give up their gang affiliations," said Hunter Glass, a retired police detective in Fayetteville, North Carolina, the home of Ft. Bragg and the 82nd Airborne. He monitors gang activity at the base and across the military.

"If we weren't in the middle of fighting a war, yes, I think the military would have a lot more control over this issue," Glass said. "But with a war going on, I think it's very difficult to do."

Gang activity clues are appearing in Iraq and Afghanistan, too. Gang graffiti is sprayed on blast walls – even on Humvees. Kilroy – the doodle made famous by U.S. soldiers in World War II – is here, but so is the star emblem of the Gangster Disciples.

The soldier who took photos if the graffiti told CBS News that he's been warned he's as good as dead if he ever returns to Iraq.

Desperate to shore up its flagging ranks, the military is quietly enlisting thousands of active gang members and shipping them to Iraq. Will a brutal murder finally wake up the Pentagon?

He was groggy, thirsty, and in terrible pain. His bowels and kidneys felt like they were about to explode. Faint bruises, some the size of a soldier’s fist, others the size of a military-issue combat boot, were already forming on Sergeant Juwan Johnson’s skin. A trickle of blood oozed from the corner of his mouth.

It was almost a miracle he was able to stand, some of the soldiers who were with him that night would later recall. They were amazed he still had the blue bandanna clutched tightly in his fist. Things had gotten out of hand.

Only a few guys were supposed to be beating him—maybe three or four, definitely no more than six. They were men Johnson knew and trusted, soldiers he had fought with in Iraq. The beating was only supposed to go on for a minute or so. After all, they weren’t trying to kill him. They were trying to make him one of their own.

All he had to do was hold onto the blue rag and silently suffer through the slaps and kicks and punches. When it was over, he would become an official member of the Gangster Disciples, a man with connections all over the United States. Hell, all over the world.

But something had gone awry on that summer night at the Kaiserslautern Army Base in Germany. It seemed like everybody in that secluded pavilion, a grill house not far from the barracks, had taken turns pummeling the small young sergeant from Baltimore. In the frenzy, no one even knew for sure how long the assault had lasted.

When it was over, Johnson still held the gang’s “colors” in his hand. He had made it through, bloodied but still breathing.

About 20,000 violent street gangs, motorcycle gangs, and prison gangs with approximately 1 million members are criminally active in the U.S. today. Many are sophisticated and well organized; all use violence to control neighborhoods and boost their illegal money-making activities, which include drug trafficking, robbery, theft, fraud, extortion, prostitution rings, and gun trafficking. Here, you'll find more on the threats posed by gangs, on how you can help spot and prevent gang activity, and on how we're redoubling our efforts to disrupt and dismantle them through intelligence-driven investigations and new initiatives and partnerships.

If anyone knows gangs, it’s Linda Schmidt. She has spent the last two decades immersed in gang issues—first, leading a gang prevention program for a non-profit agency for nine years, then spearheading gang awareness initiatives as a community outreach specialist in our Cleveland and Cincinnati offices for the next 11 years. During that time Linda has ridden in patrol cars with police officers through gang-infested neighborhoods; worked with gang members in courts, schools, and prisons; and provided all kinds of training for law enforcement officers, educators, and community groups. Sadly for us, Linda is retiring at the end of this month. Before she goes, we asked her to share some of the knowledge she has gained over the years on gangs.

Q: How did you learn so much about gangs?
A: Many ways, but mostly by going into the schools and meeting with the teachers and kids. I listened to what the gang members, teachers, and other young people had to say and then watched closely to determine what was true. I learned how to talk to these kids, to read their graffiti, and to understand their mentality. You really have to make an effort to get inside their world.

Q: What signs can help warn parents that their kids are involved in gangs?
A: Watch for changes in your child’s personality, grades, clothing, and friends. Has your son or daughter been tattooed? Or injured—because boys are often beaten and girls raped as part of their initiation into a gang. You also have the right to go into your child’s room and check for contraband. Discuss this with them. It’s always good to let them know you’re doing your job as a parent. If you suspect that your child has joined or is thinking of joining a gang, talk to them. Stay calm and respond without shock and fear no matter what they say. This will let them know that they can keep talking to you.

Q: Any words of advice on how to steer young people away from gangs?
A: Yes, two things. First, one of the attractions of a gang is its strict discipline. With that discipline comes structure and limits and a sense of security and belonging. That’s what we need to offer to our young people as well—just in a positive way. We can’t be afraid, as parents and teachers, to provide structure and discipline to our children and students. I think the government can help by delivering funded programs that our young people can turn to—especially when there are problems at home—to feel safe and to belong. These programs should be 24/7, just like the gangs are. Second, on a more general level, all of us—parents, educators, community leaders, elected officials, law enforcement—need constant education about gangs and gang trends. Gangs are forever changing—we need to keep up.