March 1, 2011

An estimated one million gang members are perpetrating violence in America’s schools and neighborhoods. They could be infiltrating your very own community. The FBI calls them “urban terrorists.”

Audio Transcript

Mollie Halpern: An estimated one million gang members are perpetrating violence in America’s schools and neighborhoods. They could be infiltrating your very own community. The FBI calls them “urban terrorists.”

Supervisory Special Agent Michael Stansbury: Gangs have spread all across the country into suburban communities and to rural communities—gangs are everywhere.

Halpern: I’m Mollie Halpern of the Bureau, and this is “Inside the FBI.” Supervisory Special Agent Michael Stansbury is in his 11th year investigating gangs and gang-related crimes. Coming up, find out what he has to say about how gangs are putting everyday Americans like you in danger; the surprising ages of gang members these days; and the ways the FBI is disrupting and dismantling gangs. But first, the economic impact of gang-related crimes exceeds more than a billion dollars. Stansbury explains how gang members reap their illegal proceeds.

Stansbury: Gangs are involved in every type of crime you can think of. Their primary activity is drug trafficking, but they’re not just involved in that…gangs have spread out to white-collar crime, including health care fraud…Pretty much any type of crime you can think of. Gangs are working with Mexican drug cartels now, part of the smuggling of drugs and violence associated with that.

Halpern: Making America’s streets safe from gangs is one of the FBI’s top priorities.

Stansbury: What we’re doing at the FBI is working with our state and local law enforcement partners in what we call Safe Streets Task Forces, working together to combat the gang problem in the local community, on the local level in each of our 56 field offices across the nation. Our goal is to basically come in and, what we call, disrupt and dismantle the gang—not just target an individual gang member who may have committed a crime, but target the entire gang and disrupt their criminal activities through law enforcement actions through arrests and searches. Ultimately, the goal is to dismantle that gang where it can no longer function. You deserve to be able to walk outside and walk down your street without having to worry about whether you’re going to become a victim of a drive-by shooting or some other act of gang violence.

Halpern: The FBI cannot put an end to gangs by itself. Stansbury says community members and outreach groups must assist the FBI and its law enforcement partners in their ongoing fight against gangs.

Stansbury: It’s a major problem that we have to deal with and we need the help of the community to deal with it. And hopefully, by education and preventive measures, we can stop a lot of young people from ever joining a gang before they get too far down the line and become something we need to address with on a law enforcement level.

Halpern: This is especially important since gang recruitment is getting younger. Even children in junior high are being targeted.

Stansbury: Now, we’re seeing more and more often that people from middle class suburban families, their kids, they turn to these gangs and this lifestyle because they think it’s cool and they want to do it—they want to emulate what they see on TV. You end up having higher rates of drop-out because people have turned to this gang lifestyle to follow it and emulate it and they see the crime and the quick money that they can make doing it. A lot of these gang members, they don’t necessarily have a lot of valuables because they’re spending their money at the night clubs, on alcohol, marijuana for their personal consumption, and women and cars—that’s what they like to do.

Halpern: Stansbury says gang prevention efforts begin at home.

Stansbury: As a parent, knowing what your kids are doing. Basically, being involved in your kid’s life. Knowing what they’re doing, asking them questions, and asking them who their friends are. And sometimes, just point blank ask them if they’re in a gang—doesn’t hurt, just talk to your kids

Halpern: To learn more about the FBI’s role in dismantling gangs visit I’m Mollie Halpern of the Bureau, and thanks for listening to “Inside the FBI.”

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