Jeff Sessions makes MS-13 a priority for drug enforcement task forces

Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifies before a Senate Judiciary oversight hearing on the Justice Department on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Wed., Oct 18, 2017.

Reuters

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Monday that he's designating MS-13, a criminal gang, as a priority for the federal government's drug enforcement task forces focused on organized crime.

"Now they will go after MS-13 with a renewed vigor and a sharpened focus. I am announcing that I have authorized them to use every lawful tool to investigate MS-13—not just our drug laws, but everything from RICO to our tax laws to our firearms laws. 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," Sessions said at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Philadelphia.

The task forces involve federal prosecutors from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and other agencies.

Sessions said that he announced over the weekend that the Department of Justice will soon award $100 million in grants to state and local law enforcement to hire more police officers.

The attorney general said that many nations are facing a deadly and lucrative drug trade involving powerful cartels and international gangs. He said that members of MS-13 have raped, robbed, extorted and murdered people and leave "misery, devastation and death in their wake."

"The murder rate has suddenly jumped by more than 20 percent in the last two years," Sessions warned, adding that the violent crime rate has also increased. "We have a crime and violent crime problem...We cannot turn a blind eye to a rise in violent crime."

  • Rebecca Shabad

    Rebecca Shabad is a video reporter for CBS News Digital.