Federal authorities Monday announced 103 arrests in six big cities of members of Mara Salvatrucha, an international gang born in Los Angeles and now involved in murder, narcotics trafficking and human smuggling. The arrests in recent weeks in L.A., Hollywood, New York, Washington, Baltimore and Miami by agents with the Department of Homeland Security represent the first thrust of a campaign to rein in Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS 13, the Los Angeles Times reported. With new cells in 33 states and up to 50,000 members in the U.S. and Latin America, the gang had become a law enforcement priority in Washington, as well as in El Salvador, Honduras and Mexico.
The FBI has organized a nationwide task force targeting MS 13, the first of its type concentrating on a single street gang. For years, authorities in Los Angeles, the nation’s gang capital, have been targeting MS 13 and arresting hundreds of members each year. Yet several thousand others are still believed to be operating in Southern California. Past efforts to arrest and deport Mara Salvatrucha members have helped spread the group’s influence and expand its recruiting pool to Mexico and Central America, where an estimated 20,000 to 40,000 members now operate.