- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Gang violence in Northern Virginia has prompted Congress to increase funding for establishing a national gang intelligence center.

Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican, announced yesterday that the House Appropriations subcommittee on commerce, justice, state and judiciary will earmark $18 million in fiscal 2005 for three antigang initiatives.

The FBI will receive $10 million to set up the national intelligence center and hire extra agents and analysts; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) will get $5 million to hire additional agents; and the U.S. attorneys’ offices will receive $3 million to hire 25 more prosecutors.

“It is critical that we stem the level of gang-related violence that is taking place across the country,” said Mr. Wolf, chairman of the subcommittee. “Virginia is not the only place where there is a problem.

“Federal, state and local law-enforcement officials throughout the country must have the resources and the ability to share knowledge and information. It is going to require a well-coordinated effort to help protect neighborhoods here in Virginia and across the country.”

The $18 million will increase to $38 million the amount of annual federal spending for antigang efforts.

Mr. Wolf has been instrumental in providing $2.65 million in federal funding to local law enforcement in Northern Virginia during the past 18 months, as gangs have grown in size and audacity.

Last month, two violent gang-related incidents within a week in Fairfax County highlighted the problem. On May 10, a 16-year-old gang member was attacked with a machete by members of a rival gang in Alexandria. The boy lost four fingers on the left hand and his hands were maimed. An arrest was made in that case three days later, and another arrest was made Monday.

On May 16, a 17-year-old Herndon boy was fatally shot and a 16-year-old girl was wounded by members of the same gang that had carried out the machete attack — Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, the largest and most violent gang in the region, according to police. No arrests have been made in that case.

Gangs have become a serious concern for Mr. Wolf, who said he has tracked the problem closely during the past two years.

“I live in the [10th] Congressional District, and I watch what’s going on. I begin to put two and two together. I work closely with … law enforcement. Just by kind of watching and listening and paying attention, you begin to get a picture of the problem,” Mr. Wolf said.

The gang intelligence center will be run by the FBI and is likely to become a clearinghouse for intelligence on gangs nationwide to enable federal and local authorities to better share information. Gang members have evaded the law by moving between jurisdictions, officials say.

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