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 the MS-13 National Gang Task Force.

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 and the MS-13 National Gang Task Force.

MS-13 National Gang Task Force

Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, continues to expand its influence in the United States. FBI investigations reveal that it is present in almost every state and continues to grow its membership, now targeting younger recruits more than ever before. To counteract this growth, the FBI formed the MS-13 National Gang Task Force in December 2004. Based at FBI Headquarters, this intelligence-driven task force combines the expertise, resources, and jurisdiction of federal agencies that investigate this violent international street gang. It focuses on maximizing the flow of information and intelligence, coordinating investigations nationally and internationally, and helping state and local law enforcement improve operations and prosecutions targeting MS-13.

The task force has instituted the Central American Fingerprint Exploitation (CAFÉ) initiative to acquire criminal fingerprints from the Central American region and to merge those fingerprints and associated criminal records into our Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) database.  

Other task force initiatives include:

  • The Central American Law Enforcement Exchange (CALEE) Initiative 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.
  • The Central American Intelligence Program (CAIP) Initiative provides training opportunities to enhance the collection, analysis, and exchange of intelligence between U.S. and Central American law enforcement agencies in the fight against transnational criminal organizations.
  • The Central American Criminal History Information Program (CHIP) Initiative provides foreign law enforcement agencies with criminal history information regarding individuals being deported to their home country.
  • In partnership with the Policía Nacional Civil (PNC) of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, the FBI established the Transnational Anti-Gang (TAG) Task Force Initiative to combat transnational gangs in Central America and the U.S. Each TAG task force is staffed with PNC and FBI personnel.
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