Cameron Conaway believes recent measures to combat the gang must be part of comprehensive reform
October 12, 2012: The US Treasury Department has designated the street gang Mara Salvatrucha, more commonly known as MS-13, as a transnational criminal organization. According to the official Treasury Press Release:
“MS-13 is being targeted for its involvement in serious transnational criminal activities, including drug trafficking, kidnapping, human smuggling, sex trafficking, murder, assassinations, racketeering, blackmail, extortion, and immigration offenses.”
Attacking the roots of a gang’s financial systems, when coupled with on-the-ground enforcement, is often a powerful way to combat organized crime. Aside from these measures making all financial transactions more difficult, it also could force MS-13 into a mistake whereby they inadvertently expose sensitive information.
David S. Cohen, Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, stated:
“MS-13 is an extremely violent and dangerous gang responsible for a multitude of crimes that directly threaten the welfare and security of U.S. citizens, as well as countries throughout Central America. This action positions us to target the associates and financial networks supporting MS-13, and gives law enforcement an additional tool in its efforts to disrupt MS-13’s activities.”
MS-13 – Capitol Killer, a History Channel documentary:
Salvadorian immigrants began MS-13 in Los Angeles as a protection mechanism against the gangs already present. But year-by-year the gang grew in size and became more offensive, more international and totally willing to adapt to whatever crime presented the highest payout with the lowest risk (as evident in their current human trafficking involvement). In 2004 the FBI formed the MS-13 National Gang Task Force to tackle MS-13 on a variety of levels. This new designation, however, will grant the US Treasury Department not only the power to freeze any financial assets from the gang or its members, but will also prohibit entire financial institutions from doing business with them.
While the effort has been lauded by many, it’s equally important to recognize that this effort must be incorporated into a wide-reaching platform that includes everything from providing at-risk youth with better educational opportunities (as early in life as possible) and a continued effort to reform the criminal justice system into one that stops making criminals worse and instead strives to rehabilitate and carefully reintegrate them back into society. The former is universally recognized but often comes down to a lack of funding, whereby the latter is an issue that the public must begin to embrace.
Our first instinct is to punish criminals and punish them hard, but we have failed year-after-year, and despite an incredibly huge body of international academic research, to realize that while being tough on crime is great, being too tough on criminals often creates absolute monsters. This results in a cycle of crime where a dent on one side merely creates a protrusion on the other.
—Photo: Luis Romero, AP