Mara Salvatrucha - Ms13

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La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, has quickly expanded from L.A., its U.S. birthplace, into more than 30 states across the country. With at least 10,000 members today, the gang's reach goes well beyond its inner-city roots into middle-class suburban neighborhoods and schools. And that has law enforcement, community leaders and parents struggling to find ways to cope with an organization that the FBI considers its "top priority among criminal gangs." The beginnings of MS-13 date from the 1980s, when more than a million Salvadoran refugees fled their war-wracked homeland for safe haven in the United States. Many settled in the barrios of Los Angeles, where they were preyed upon by the city's turf-conscious Mexican and black gangs. The young immigrants banded together for protection. Armed with machetes and guns, their violent methods quickly established them as the city's dominant gang. Since then, MS-13 has opened its ranks to Hispanics of all origins, and branched out into organized rackets such as car chopping, immigrant smuggling (mainly bringing Mexicans into the United States) and drug dealing. It's the gang's mindless brutality, though, that keeps making headlines. In 2002, two MS-13 members overpowered a Charlotte, North Carolina, woman, who was in her car with her young child, and raped her in the backseat. That same year, gang members raped two deaf teenage girls in a Boston-area park. One girl was lifted from her wheelchair and slammed onto a park bench for the assault. In the summer of 2002, the Los Angeles Police Department alerted its brethren in Fairfax County, Virginia -- a suburb of Washington, D.C. -- that some 20 MS-13 members from California had been dispatched to kill a Northern Virginia police officer at random. California members "are upset with the local MS-13 gang because a Fairfax County police officer has not been killed," noted a police bulletin. The hit was foiled, but the threat was real: MS-13 is responsible for...
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