- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 28, 2007

Congressman Frank R. Wolf said yesterday he helped secure $1.5 million for the Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force as part of the annual spending bill for the Justice Department.

“Thanks to the efforts of these task forces, our region has been able to get out in front of this growing problem,” said Mr. Wolf, 10th District Republican, who also cited a report in The Washington Times about MS-13’s unifying efforts.

The fiscal 2008 Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill also includes $700,000 for the Northwest Regional Drug Task Force in the northern Shenandoah Valley.

The Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force — comprised of law-enforcement officials on the local, state and federal level — was formed in 2003 to combat gang activity and crimes. It includes 14 counties and cities from Alexandria west to Winchester.

This was the latest show of support by Mr. Wolf, who has pushed Congress to fund the effort since 2003.

“The level of cooperation across jurisdictional lines and between law-enforcement officials on all levels of government is what has made these task forces so successful,” he said. “There is more to dealing with this problem than arresting people. Suppression is a big part, but it has to be combined with education and prevention components or it won”t work. Everyone involved in the task forces understands that is what has made them so successful.”

On Wednesday, The Times reported a confidential letter sent this month from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Illinois warning that MS-13, or Mara Salvatrucha, “is attempting to become a unified criminal enterprise operating under one leadership.”

In one of MS-13’s most violent acts in the region, two members in July 2003 stabbed to death one of their own, Brenda Paz. She was killed after talking to federal and local law-enforcement officers. Her body was found four days later on the banks of the Shenandoah River.

Federal law-enforcement agents said the gang is adopting tactics used by major Mexican and Colombian drug-trafficking groups and has become a gun-for-hire for many major Central and South American drug-trafficking cartels.

“Indications that previously independent cliques are forming alliances with other MS-13 cliques, as well as with other gangs to facilitate criminal activity, further heighten the threat,” the letter continued. “It would be dangerous to look at MS-13 as just another street gang.”

The gangs profit off narcotics and arms trafficking, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency. Human trafficking and extortion also are becoming lucrative enterprises for them, agency officials told The Times.

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