Gangs

Gang Members Behind Bars

Some 33,000 violent street gangs, motorcycle gangs, and prison gangs with about 1.4 million members are criminally active in the U.S. and Puerto Rico today. Many are sophisticated and well organized; all use violence to control neighborhoods and boost their illegal money-making activities, which include robbery, drug and gun trafficking, prostitution and human trafficking, and fraud. Many gang members continue to commit crimes even after being sent to jail.

Anti-Gang Initiatives 

The FBI is dedicated to disrupting and dismantling the most significant gangs through intelligence-driven investigations and new and longstanding initiatives and partnerships such as Safe Streets Task Forces, the National Gang Intelligence Center, and Transnational Anti-Gang Task Forces.

National Gang Intelligence Center

To help curb the growth of gangs and related criminal activity, the FBI, at the direction of Congress, established the National Gang Intelligence Center, or NGIC, in 2005.

The NGIC integrates gang intelligence from across federal, state, and local law enforcement on the growth, migration, criminal activity, and association of gangs that pose a significant threat to the U.S. It supports law enforcement by sharing timely and accurate information and by providing strategic/tactical analysis of intelligence. Located just outside Washington, D.C., the NGIC is manned by analysts from multiple federal agencies.

The databases of each component agency are available to the NGIC, as are other gang-related databases, permitting centralized access to information. In addition, the NGIC provides operational and analytical support for investigations. Using these resources, we have identified those gangs that pose the greatest danger to our communities and targeted them with our combined investigative resources and the same federal racketeering statutes and intelligence and investigative techniques that have been used to attack organized crime.

The NGIC is co-located with the Safe Streets Gang Unit (SSGU), which is based at FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Transnational Anti-Gang (TAG) Task Forces

The Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and 18th Street gangs continue to expand their influence in the United States. FBI investigations reveal these transnational gangs are present in almost every state and continue to grow their memberships, now targeting younger recruits more than ever before. To counteract this growth, the Transnational Anti-Gang (TAG) Task Force initiative—previously referred to as the MS-13 National Gang Task Force—was developed. Overseen by the SSGU at FBI Headquarters, TAG Task Forces are currently located in three countries:

  • El Salvador (established 2007)
  • Guatemala (established 2009)
  • Honduras (established 2011)

The TAG Task Force program’s mission and focus is to investigate, disrupt, and dismantle transnational gangs (MS-13 and 18th St) in these three Central American countries, as well as to collect and disseminate intelligence to support related U.S.-based investigations. TAG Task Forces collaborate with host nation agencies to investigate gangs at the transnational level, including by identifying members and groups, or cliques, along with their areas of operation and their leadership structure.

Each TAG Task Force is a fully operational unit staffed with FBI personnel and vetted law enforcement officers from the Policía Nacional Civil (PNC) of their respective countries. TAG Task Forces annually train more than 1,200 PNC officers in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras on gang-related issues as well as conduct officer exchanges with FBI field offices to facilitate intelligence-sharing and best practices.

In addition to providing training and guidance to PNC officers, FBI personnel assigned to TAG Task Forces also coordinate with the SSGU, FBI field offices, and state and local law enforcement agencies on national and international investigations targeting the MS-13 and 18th Street gangs.

The TAG Task Force initiative also oversees the Central American Law Enforcement Exchange (CALEE) program, which creates opportunities for U.S. and Central American law enforcement personnel to participate in exchange programs to strengthen gang prevention and intervention techniques and to build law enforcement capacity.

MS13 Graffiti on Wall in El Salvador

Violent Gang Task Forces

In January 1992, we announced the Safe Streets Violent Crime Initiative, designed to allow each field office to address violent street gangs and drug-related violence through the establishment of FBI sponsored, long-term, proactive task forces focusing on violent gangs, crime of violence, and the apprehension of violent fugitives. The Violent Gang Safe Streets Task Force became the vehicle through which all of the federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies joined together to address the violent crime plaguing their communities. The FBI’s Safe Streets and Gang Unit administers 160 Violent Gang Safe Streets Task Forces nationwide, staffed by nearly 850 FBI agents, more than 1,500 state and local law enforcement personnel, and nearly 100 other federal law enforcement agents.

These task forces pursue violent gangs through sustained, proactive, coordinated investigations to obtain prosecutions under the U.S. Code, Titles 18 and 21, including violations such as racketeering, drug conspiracy, and firearms violations. The Safe Streets Task Force concept expands cooperation and communication among federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, increasing productivity and avoiding duplication of investigative efforts.

One of the key facets of a Safe Streets Task Force is the Enterprise Theory of Investigation (ETI). Combining short term, street level enforcement activity with such sophisticated techniques as consensual monitoring, financial analysis, and Title III wire intercepts investigations using ETI aim to root out and prosecute the entire gang, from the street level thugs and dealers up through the crew leaders and ultimately the gang’s command structure. For the past 14 years, the ETI has proven time and again how effective federal racketeering, drug conspiracy, and firearms investigations can be, whether it is providing the incentive for witnesses to cooperate or imprisoning the gang’s leaders for decades.

Read more on our Violent Crime Task Forces.

The Gang Threat