Police Chief Marshall Robinson of rural Strasburg, Va., checks on a construction site where he believes members of one of Virginia’s most violent gangs are working, reports the Washington Post. “We’re used to our little vandalism, larcenies, smoking a little pot,” said Robinson, who grew up in this town of 4,000. “But now we’re into this whole MS-13 thing,” he said, using the abbreviation for Mara Salvatrucha, a violent gang whose members he suspects are mixing among day laborers in Strasburg. Residents of the rural belt that parallels Shenandoah National Park are finding that gang members in the nation’s capital are doing what many others are doing: migrating in search of a better quality of life.
On May 20, federal and local law enforcement officials held a joint news conference near Washington to warn about the spread of gang violence through exurbia and into the rural Shenandoah Valley. They pledged $500,000 in additional funds to deal with it. Officials acknowledge that they do not know precisely what they are dealing with. Basic questions are unanswered: How big is this gang population? Are the members mostly teenagers or adults? And most importantly, what motivates them? “We can’t do something until they do something, so for now we are going to take pictures; we are going to identify them,” Robinson said. “For now, we’re just waiting.”