8 LONGISLANDPRESS.COM • NOVEMBER 2018
IN THE NEWS
GANGLAND CRACKDOWN RETRENCHMENT
By NEGLAH SHARMA
A crackdown on MS-13 has prompted
a game of whack-a-mole, as gang investigators
see varying factions of the
transnational criminal organization
morph in an effort to survive each time
arrests are made.
Local and federal investigators have
made rooting out the gang a top priority.
At the same time, Patrias and ABK
are two resurrected MS-13 cliques in
Brentwood and Central Islip loosely
affiliated with other gangs, according
to a self-proclaimed MS-13 insider.
“No one knows about this, except for
people who are in it,” the 30-year-old
Brentwood resident says, referring to
gangbangers as community “control
MS-13, or La Mara Salvatrucha,
is an ultraviolent street gang headquartered
in El Salvador and known
to distribute illicit drugs. Salvadoran
immigrants formed the gang in Los
Angeles in the 1980s. A quadruple
murder that the gang’s members
allegedly committed in Central Islip
last year triggered two visits from
President Donald Trump and one from
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The gang is estimated to have 10,000
members nationwide. The White
House said during Trump’s last visit
in May that 2,000 of those are on Long
Island. Nassau County police said they
have identified about 500 active members.
Suffolk County police said they
have identified approximately 386 MS-
13 members and 193 MS-13 associates.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John
Durham, lead prosecutor in the case
against the alleged MS-13 gangsters
charged in the 2016 killings of teens
Nisa Mickens and Kayla Cuevas in
Brentwood, was recently appointed to
a new transnational crime task force to
stamp out MS-13 on Long Island. The
machete-wielding gang members are
responsible for at least 25 deaths on
Long Island since 2016, authorities say.
Local law enforcement leaders
confirm that they have seen the gang
evolve since the crackdown.
“We’re seeing cliques of MS-13,
and some of these cliques have been
completely annihilated, and what
they do is if there are any members
left, the target’s assumed by existing
cliques, such as the Brentwood Locos
MS-13 members are known to get tattoos of the gang, but investigators say its members now forgo that
tradition to keep a low profile.
Salvatruchos, Huntington Criminal
Locotes Salvatruchos,” says Suffolk
County District Attorney Tim Sini.
“What happens when you disrupt a
gang is that they try to adapt, and you
see alliances among gangs that you
normally wouldn’t see.”
As a result of multiple arrests of
members, a clique leader will oversee
a couple of different sects, but still
remain in communication with the
leadership in El Salvador, he says.
That’s why local investigators are
working with El Salvadoran officials
to eradicate the gang.
“We need to invest in the cooperation
of the two countries through gang
prevention and gang intervention
programs,” Sini says.
“In terms of numbers, they’re the
worst gang we have,” former El Salvador
Police Chief Rodrigo Avila said last
month at the Suffolk County Sheriff’s
12th Annual Gang Seminar.
More than 8,600 children from Central
America between the ages of 6 and
17 made their way to LI in the past four
years, forcing government and nonprofit
intervention before the socially
disadvantaged children can become the
supply chain, or next victims, of the gang.
Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon
says that just as all politics is local, so is
the gang issue.
“When we talk about gangs, we always
think about the bigger gangs,” he says.
“There’s always these subsets, and these
subsets come from local communities.”
Jim Nielsen, a retired NYPD officer
and former Rikers Island Corrections
Officer, says that gang members often
find themselves in a catch-22.
“If they’re not in a gang, they get preyed
on,” he says. “I don’t pity or condone them
or what they do, but joining the MS-13 is
one of the great philosophical questions
of our time, because they are damned if
they do, and damned if they don’t.”
“They try to adapt, and you see alliances
among gangs that you normally wouldn’t
see,” says Suffolk County District Attorney