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Trump administration cracking down on MS-13 gang

ATF agents prepare for a raid in the parking lot of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum early Wednesday morning, May 17, 2017, in Los Angeles. Hundreds of federal and local law enforcement fanned out across Los Angeles, serving arrest and search warrants as part of a three-year investigation into the violent and brutal street gang MS-13. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

One of America’s most notorious and dangerous gangs is spreading across the nation.

MS-13 or Mara Salvatrucha, a transnational gang created in Los Angeles in the 1980s, is becoming increasingly violent.

“We’ve seen an uptick in gang violence,” said Chief Tom Manger of the Montgomery County Maryland Police Department.

In one of the largest gang operations in the United States, nearly 1400 suspected gang members were arrested in a six-week crackdown, according to a statement released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) last month. In fiscal year 2016, ICE arrested 429 MS-13 gang members and associates.

“Gangs threaten the safety of our communities, not just in major metropolitan areas but in our suburbs and rural areas, too,” said ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan in the statement. “Our efforts to dismantle gangs are much more effective in areas where partnership with local law enforcement is strongest.”

A woman was sentenced to 40 years in prison in Maryland this week, after she lured a teenager to a park to be stabbed 153 times by M-13 gang members last summer.

“MS-13 often engages in violence for the sake of violence, to increase the notoriety of the gang, and to cause communities to fear the gang and it’s members,” said Thomas Sini, commissioner of the Suffolk County, New York Police Department during a recent Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions promised that the administration would target MS-13 and undocumented immigrants, including unaccompanied children crossing the border from Central America.

“Some of the young folks fleeing violence in their home country origin. They are so susceptible and such easy prey for recruitment by these gang members,” said Chief Manger.

And some of those young people escaping to the United States are already gang members. Congressional lawmakers say the U.S. has failed to keep track of those immigrants. Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) received documents last week from a whistle blower, in which Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials admitted losing track of at least 16 underage gang members who crossed the border in 2014.

“CBP the apprehended them knew they were MS-13 gang members, and processed and dispersed them into our communities.” said Sen. Johnson. “It’s literally an insane policy that has to be corrected.”

The panel’s ranking Democrat, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) says MS-13 has a long reach, discouraging a community from helping law enforcement after recent immigration crackdowns.

"By the way they commit violence, they discourage anyone from ever speaking up in ways that can hold them accountable,” said Sen. McCaskill.

Police are also worried that gang members are increasingly using encrypted smartphone apps to coordinate their activity and avoid law enforcement.

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