MS-13 recruitment on the rise in DC region, according to gang task force

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (FOX 5 DC) -- The violent MS-13 gang continues to plant roots in the D.C. area and across the country and recruitment is apparently on the rise. This new information comes amid President Donald Trump's new plan to deport millions of illegal immigrants starting next week.

Less than a month ago, a body was found in a makeshift shallow grave behind an apartment building in Alexandria. The killing was so gruesome the medical examiner is still determining the victim's identity and cause of death. Police say the murder was gang-related.

Mara Salvatrucha, known as MS-13, is reportedly ramping up its recruitment and it seemingly shows across the area.

"We've seen a rise in gang activity here this spring. There have been a few homicides in the region, as you've seen," said Jay Lanham, director of the Northern Virginia Gang Task Force. "Last year, we saw the gangs, especially MS-13 laying low. We arrested a lot of the program and clique leaders so their leadership was lacking."

FOX 5 has learned MS-13 scaled back recruitment efforts in 2018, all while continuing its criminal activity with existing members.

"They kept a low profile because of the year 2018 and it sounds kind of elementary, but 2018 is in relation to 18th Street, so they didn't want to do a lot of recruiting during 2018, and we've seen the recruiting pick up this year," Lanham said.

Lanham says the 18th Street Gang, reportedly aligned with the Mexican Mafia, is MS-13's top rival.

At times, law enforcement is hesitant to call MS-13 by name, not wanting to give the criminal group any unnecessary exposure. Even so, the Trump administration's stance on MS-13 has been clear -- "deport them, by the thousands."