Over the last two months, I have been writing about one of the most detailed reports ever produced on MS-13. American University and the think-tank, InSight Crime, provide a comprehensive look at the gang in Central America and the United States, with a particular focus on Long Island. The report describes the gang’s recruitment methods and its structure and activities. It also provides detailed recommendations for countering Mara Salvatrucha. Over the next week, I will post some of the suggestions from the report.
The first recommendation is one that was largely ignored during the initial response to the increase in MS-13 violence in Suffolk two years ago:
Make it a multi-party solution. The MS13 is a complex social group with
extremely violent tendencies. As such, we believe solutions to this problem need
to address social exclusion and lack of opportunity as much or more as they do
the law enforcement challenges posed by the gang. This includes working closely
with former gang members, churches and other non-governmental organizations
that work with marginalized youths, as well as attracting business leaders, private
industry and other commercial interests to play active roles.
A law enforcement-only approach does not work, nor does a strategy that sees the police as the leaders, with all other players functioning merely as auxiliaries.
The second recommendation is not to marginalize Central American youth, especially those on the periphery of the gang.
Give youths a choice. Young people are seeking a community, someplace to
feel safe. Create that space by working with NGOs, schools, churches, parents
and other members of the community. Do not paint youths into a corner by
marginalizing and vilifying them or their community. Some of these youths are
on the edges of gang activity, are not full-fledged members and do not want to
be full-fledged members. It is necessary to identify them, separate them, and
expend resources working with them.
Third, the criminalization of an entire community only helps the gang recruit.
Don’t isolate gang-riddled communities. Criminalizing immigrant
communities undermines efforts to stop the violence and illicit activities generated
by gangs. Those entering gang life often do so because they are searching for protection. If you provide them with that protection before the gang does, you
can win that race. What’s more, if you inspire confidence instead of fear, you will
win the local community who will be your best eyes and ears going forward.