Violent gangs are spreading across metropolitan Washington, law enforcement officials say, recruiting young members and leaving graffiti-scrawled signs in a demonstration of their growing presence, according to a special report in the Washington Post.
The estimated number of gang members in the region has risen to more than 3,000, officials told the Post, with much of the growth driven by gangs with formal rules of membership and specific tattoos, hand signs, bandannas or colors that display loyalties. These groups emphasize Latino pride or machismo, roots to El Salvador, or connections to more established gangs that dominate the barrios and poorer neighborhoods in Los Angeles, federal officials say.
The region’s police forces have expanded their gang units, created a burgeoning database to share information and obtained a $500,000 federal grant to combat the problem.
Gang activity has increased slightly across the country, according to an FBI assistant director who testified about gang violence Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Los Angeles and Chicago remain the nation’s epicenters of gang-related violence.