Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Monday that he’s designated the MS-13 street gang as a priority for the Justice Department’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces — enabling authorities to target the gang with broader array of federal resources.
“Now they will go after MS-13 with a renewed vigor and a sharpened focus,” Mr. Sessions said Monday as he addressed the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Philadelphia. “Just like we took Al Capone off the streets with our tax laws, we will use whatever laws we have to get MS-13 off of our streets.”
The priority designation will instruct federal agencies, like the Internal Revenue Service, FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, to target the El Salvador-based gang not just with drug laws but also firearms, racketeering and tax laws.
Before this year, the task force was only able to get involved in cases involving drug trading or money laundering. But changes to the task force’s authority in this year’s budget let the Justice Department directly name an organization as a priority.
The change will mean that the task force can now get involved in a broad range of cases involving MS-13, also known as Mara Salvatrucha, including anything from murder prosecutions to firearms violations.
Mr. Sessions has singled out MS-13’s involvement in the drug trade as a priority as his department has sought to combat both illegal immigration and an influx of drugs brought in the country from overseas.
“Drugs are killing more Americans than ever before, in large part thanks to powerful cartels and international gangs and deadly new synthetic opioids, like fentanyl,” Mr. Sessions said.
During his address to law enforcement leaders Monday, Mr. Sessions also highlighted a number of recent Justice Department grants awarded to police and sheriffs agencies.
⦁ $200,000 will be awarded to the IACP’s Institute for Police and Community Relations, to help improve trust and cooperation between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve.
⦁ $5 million will be spent on rapid response training meant to prepare agencies for response to active shooter incidents.
⦁ $100 million in grants will pay for state and local agencies to hire more police officers.