Notorious El Salvadoran gang Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, is recruiting students as early as fifth grade, according to investigators tasked with containing gang violence.
“They’re recruiting in grade-school but generally fifth grade and on,” Northern Virginia Regional Task Force Director Jay Lanham told FOX5. Fifth graders are a prime target because they’re beginning to find themselves, he said. “Drastic” changes in behavior can tip off a parent to gang involvement, such as when a child loses all interest in studies and sports and “hates” going to school.
Latino gangsters recruit from Maryland and Northern Virginia schools filled with Latino students. Latino gangs come with the Latino population, which increased from 2.6 percent in 1990 up to roughly 8.6 percent in 2013, according to the American Immigration Council. “We can’t arrest our way out of the problem. I mean, everyone has to be involved, and it starts with the parents,” Lanham continued. Over half, or roughly 54 percent, of Hispanic births in the U.S. are out-of-wedlock.
Latinos under 18 are prime recruitment targets, since penalties for juveniles are less harsh than those levied at adult criminals. Young recruits begin committing assault and larceny at a young age, then proceed to drug trafficking and violent crime, according to one expert.
MS-13 appeared in the news once more after a brutal murder of a 15-year-old Latino girl whose mother said she became involved with one of the gang’s clique. Police arrested ten, including four young illegal adults, charging them with abduction and gang participation. Two of the adults are charged with murder.
The Obama administration shipped illegal alien minors with clear MS-13 ties—including vivid gang tattoos seen by Border Patrol agents—to MS-13 strongholds such as the Washington, D.C. area during the illegal alien minor surge from Central America.
MS-13 has operated in the Washington, D.C., area since the 1990s.