Gangfighters Weblog

August 6, 2010

Excerpts from Convergence: Special Operations Forces and Civilian Law Enforcement.

Filed under: gang, gang violence, gangs in the military, mara salvatrucha, mexico, ms-13, murder, police — carterfsmith @ 8:20 am

. . . of concern are the types of weapons that are now found on the streets of many cities. For example, in Palm Beach County, Florida, a suspect bailed out of his car after a high-speed chase and successfully evaded capture. The trunk contained full body armor and several weapons, including a customized .50-caliber sniper rifle capable of penetrating the engine block of an automobile. The driver was later determined to be a known assassin wanted by Interpol. The officer’s 9-mm handgun would have been no match should a shootout have occurred.16 Unfortunately, this event can no longer be considered unique. Similarly, fully automatic weapons, though illegal in most jurisdictions, are increasingly getting into the hands of gang members and experienced criminals. (7)

Operating coast to coast in the U.S., Latin American gangs pose a significant threat to local, state, and federal LEAs. The law enforcement operations required to counter these narcoterrorist threats increasingly take on the appearance of military SOF missions. (40)

Of concern to law enforcement is the sophistication of many of these gangs. The old motorcycle gangs, such as the Outlaws and Hells Angels, are alive and well, but have learned to stay below the radar of police agencies. Instead they are entering the business world in both white and gray enterprises. Working in white collar crime is less conspicuous, and members who cross the line and attract attention may face severe penalties. The rule is, “Do not irritate law enforcement.” 115 However, as the cartel gangs become more active, it is highly likely that friction will occur between them and the older, more established gangs.

Since drugs are the primary funding source for terrorism, eruptions of violence are increasingly likely to take place in American cities. Currently, much of the competition for drug markets produces intergang violence, which does occasionally involve injury or deaths of innocent bystanders. While undesirable, such situations are manageable by existing LEAs. However, if
significant escalation occurs and/or the advent of terrorist attacks in which the actors strike multiple targets with the intent on holding buildings of other facilities, then it may be necessary to consider employing SOF elements domestically. Posse Comitatus Act, acknowledged, it would be better to contemplate these options now rather than being called in after the event
has unfolded. It is the expansion of the drug cartels that could easily force such a scenario. (41)

Note that the criminal activities of MS-13 and the 18th Street Gang have risen to the level to attract Congressional attention. The revolving-door aspects of these repeat offenders in narcotrafficking are of great concern.166 Part of scoping this problem is understanding that 20,000 violent street, motorcycle, and prison gangs are operating in the U.S. today.167 According to FBI statistics, that number equates to at least one million gang members; and they engage in a wide range of crimes including robbery, home invasions, identity theft, extortion, and illegal narcotics.168
Listed by the FBI, the largest gangs are as follows:
a. 18th Street Gang—30,000 to 50,000 members in the U.S.
b. Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation
c. Asian Boyz—2,000 members, mostly Vietnamese and Cambodian
e. Bloods—30,000 members in 123 cities
f. Crips—30,000 to 35,000 members in 221 cities
g. Florencia 13—3,000 members, a Mexican gang in Southern California
h. Fresno Bulldogs—5,000 to 6,000 members in Central California
i. Gangster Disciples—25,000 to 50,000 members in 31 states
j. Latin Disciples—2,000 members
k. Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13)—50,000 members worldwide, 10,000 in
the U.S.
l. Sureños and Norteños—a Latino prison confederation
m. Tango Blast—14,000 member in Texas prisons
n. Tiny Rascal Gangsters—5,000 to 10,000 members, considered the
most violent Asian gang
o. United Blood Nation—7,000 to 15,000, started in Rikers prison in
New York
p. Vice Lord Nation—30,000 to 35,000 members.
All of these gangs have members who have been in the military.169 When they return to their gangs on the street, their knowledge of weapons and tactics poses a significant threat to LEAs. While having gang members in the military is not new, according to the FBI, the trend is increasing and the population density is above what is found in the civilian sector.170 An
estimated 2 percent of military members have gang affiliation. Despite background security checks, it must be assumed that some number of these members are attracted to, and have become members of, SOF units. (67)
The internal use of military forces, beyond those contemplated in Posse Comitatus, are foreseeable. Groups concerned with stemming illegal immigration have already called,
sending troops to the border. The impact of international gangs, along with instability along the Mexican border, and known infiltration of that zone by terrorists from the Middle East could precipitate a necessity to act. The key factors will be the capabilities of domestic law enforcement and perceived threat to security by the American public. If LEA capabilities to resolve critical situations are exceeded, and Americans feel personally threatened,
the Government may approve use of the military in ways rarely thought about. Should such a situation arise, SOF elements would likely be engaged.

Alexander, John B. (2010). Convergence: Special Operations Forces and Civilian Law Enforcement. Joint Special Operations University. Report 10-6, July 2010. Retrieved from


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