One of the trending topics in the country right now is MS-13 after President Donald Trump called the violent street gang “animals,” which has fueled a social media firestorm.
"We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in – and we're stopping a lot of them," Trump said Wednesday. "You wouldn't believe how bad these people are. These aren't people. These are animals. We are taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that has never happened before. Because of the weak laws, they come in fast. We get them. We release them. We get them again. We bring them out. It’s crazy.”
Targeting and taking down the El Salvadorian-based gang is at the top of the agenda for the Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force, which formed by 16 different law enforcement agencies in Virginia.
Police had a handle on the gang problem in the early to late 2000s, but MS-13 has resurfaced in recent years by extorting businesses and taking advantage of illegal immigrants who are scared to report the gang’s crimes due to retaliation or deportation. They are also recruiting children of illegal immigrants.
“My description of a gang member would be ruthless, violent, without conscience, no ethics or morals,” said Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force Executive Director Jay Lanham. "They are willing to do whatever it takes to further the gang.”
In Woodbridge, police charged four MS-13 gang members with the murder of 25-year-old Santos Arquimidis Sorto Amaya. Officials said he was kidnapped, shot and burned in his car by the gang members in March.
Police said the victim was not in a gang and his family told FOX 5 that he was on his way to work before he was found dead a couple of days later.
A month later, the Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force said there has been an uptick of MS-13 gang members threatening police investigating the gang, their presence and criminal activity.
“They will make threats on their lives – what they call ‘green-light’ someone," said Lanham. "It’s going to be an officer or detective that is investigating a crime or who have arrested them or fellow gang members. It happens fairly often. You don’t see it in the news, but we give a lot of attention to it when it occurs.”
The Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force said a big challenge it has is funding. Its budget was reduced from $3 million to $325,000 in 2012 and has yet to be restored.