Two gangs that originated on the streets in Los Angeles have grown so large in El Salvador that there are two prisons in that country devoted exclusively to their members, one for each gang, reports the New York Times. Gangs in Los Angeles, with the worst gang problem in the U.S., have bolstered their presence in Mexico and Central America, where they attract members. “These gangs are the new and emerging organized crime in America,” said Bruce Riordan, anti-gang operations chief for the Los Angeles city attorney.
Last week the federal government and Los Angeles County charged 23 incarcerated gang members with the felony offense of re-entering the U.S. after being deported. The men, in their 20s and 30s, had been awaiting release from state prisons or city jails where they were serving time for a variety of offenses. They now face up to 20 more years in federal prison if convicted. After deportation without federal prosecution, most gang members are not subject to penalties in the countries to which they are expelled. “They get a chance to hang out in another country for a while, then come right back,” often having recruited new members, said an official. Another official traced the growth of transnational gangs to the Sept. 11 attacks and a resulting shift in federal law enforcement resources.