Part 1: Understanding the Threat
“The gangs respect no borders, so law enforcement must respond in kind by working together,” Mann said. His unit recently sponsored a Central American Law Enforcement Exchange (CALEE) that brought Central American police officers and prosecutors together with local law enforcement personnel from American cities where MS-13 and 18th Street operate. It was the sixth such exchange the FBI has sponsored jointly with the U.S. Department of State since 2009. The goal of CALEE is to have participants share intelligence about the gangs as well as best practices.
The MS-13 and 18th Street gangs have become so bloodthirsty in El Salvador that the government has declared them terrorist organizations. The gangs are responsible for bringing the murder rate to a level last seen during the 1979-1992 civil war.
Last year during the month of August, there were 907 murders in El Salvador, a small country roughly the size of Massachusetts. By comparison, Chicago—known for its gang violence—recorded 411 murders during the entire year in 2014, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report. In 2015 in El Salvador, 55 police officers were assassinated by the gangs, along with 18 military officers, six corrections officers, one prosecutor, and one judge.
Part 2: Countering the Threat with Strong Partnerships
Part 3: Investigators and Prosecutors Join Forces
CALEE participants attend a lecture in El Salvador.
El Salvador Attorney General Luis Martinez during the CALEE training last September.
Since 2009, the FBI and the U.S. Department of State have sponsored the Central American Law Enforcement Exchange (CALEE), which brings Central American police officers and prosecutors together with law enforcement personnel from U.S. cities where violent gangs like MS-13 and 18th Street operate. In this series, FBI.gov looks at how cooperative efforts are yielding mutual benefits in the fight against transnational gangs.