MS-13 and 18th Street Gangs: Emerging Transnational Gang Threats? [Updated January 30, 2008]   [open pdf - 156KB]

This report discusses the MS-13 and M-18 Gangs providing a brief history of the gangs as well as how they differ from other U.S. street gangs. Included in this report are descriptions of the government's response to the gangs, including the agencies involved in solving the problem: FBI National Gang Intelligence Center, ATF, Gang Targeting Enforcement Coordination Center as well as joint efforts between the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the government of El Salvador. From the report: "Two predominantly Latino gangs, Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and the 18th Street gang (M-18), have raised concern among policy makers for several reasons: (1) membership in these gangs has spread from the Los Angeles area to other communities across the United States; (2) these gangs are becoming 'transnational,' primarily because MS-13 and M-18 cliques are being established in Central America and Mexico; (3) evidence suggests that these gangs are engaged in criminal enterprises normally associated with better organized and more sophisticated crime syndicates; and (4) MS-13 and M-18 gang members may be involved in smuggling operations and, by extension, could potentially use their skills and criminal networks to smuggle terrorists into the United States. To date, however, no evidence exists establishing a link between MS-13 and M-18 members and terrorists. Nevertheless, some observers maintain that these two gangs may develop the capacity to become organized criminal enterprises capable of coordinating illegal activities across national borders. Yet, others find them to be no more criminally organized or sophisticated than other street gangs. At issue for Congress is whether the MS-13 and M-18 gangs constitute an emerging transnational criminal threat."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, RL34233
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