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U.S., New York officials declare war on deadly MS-13 street gang

War on MS-13
New York, federal officials declare war on street gang MS-13 02:39

BRENTWOOD, N.Y. -- Attorney General Jeff Sessions visited Long Island, New York, on Friday vowing to "devastate" the street gang MS-13, which is blamed for a recent surge in murders. But it's not just a federal fight. Local authorities have also declared war on the gang.

Suffolk County Police Lt. Thomas Zagajeski says authorities found Nisa Mickens on a tree-lined street last September -- murdered on the eve of her 16th birthday.

"My daughter was the best thing that ever happened to me," Nisa's mother Elizabeth Alvarado says.

The next day, the body of her best friend, Kayla Cuevas, was found nearby. Like Mickens, she had been beaten and slashed to death with a machete.

MS-13 gang appears to be surging again 01:40

Investigators say the girls died at the hands of MS-13, a gang blamed for killing 17 people in the county since the start of 2016 -- the latest, four young men whose bodies were discovered in a park.

"MS-13 seems to engage in violence for sport and that's what makes them particularly dangerous," Police Commissioner Timothy Sini says.

The gang first formed in Los Angeles in the 1980s, but a nationwide crackdown saw more than 7,000 members arrested in the past decade. Now police report a comeback, built on recruiting vulnerable children who cross the border unaccompanied, looking for a sense of family.

"We need to be weeding out those gang recruiters," Sini says, "but we also have to make sure we have community-based programs so that we deter and prevent gang recruitment."

Attorney General promises to crack down on gangs 05:35

The Justice Department says there are now more than 10,000 MS-13 members in at least 40 states.

"I have about 15 officers assigned to the gang team, just to deal with MS-13," Zagajeski says.

Zagajeski says his Suffolk County gang unit has arrested more than 150 MS-13 members in the past year, including those allegedly responsible for the deaths of Mickens and Cuevas.

Sini might be the only police commissioner in the country promising to eradicate MS-13. And he thinks he can make it happen.

"We are not going to tolerate crime in our communities," he says, "and we're especially not going to tolerate an organization that killed two young girls on our streets."

Sini says eradicating MS-13 will take time. He called it a war that law enforcement does not intend to lose.

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