Today, U.S. gangs can be broken down into three major categories: outlaw motorcycle gangs, street gangs and prison gangs.
Groups such as the Hell’s Angels, Mongels and Pagans are known as outlaw motorcycle gangs. The highly structured criminal organizations are responsible for violent crime, weapons and drug trafficking.
Street gangs such as the Bloods, Crips, MS-13 and Latin Kings are probably the largest group and control the most geographic area, but aside from the 11 known national gangs, most are small and have limited influence.
Prison gangs, including the Mexican Mafia, Texas Syndicate, Aryan Brotherhood and Barrio Azteca are large criminal networks that operate in the U.S. state and federal prison systems.
Their membership spills into the streets where they exert control over drug distribution.
“If you’re a gang member and you go to prison, you have to affiliate with one of the prison gangs for protection,” Brunton said. “When you get out of prison and you go back to your neighborhood, you’re not affiliating with your old gang anymore. Now you’re just prison gang.”
And that, authorities say, is how prison gangs are able to spread their influence even further, into all types of communities.
“They control all activity, all the illegal movement of drugs, all the communication back and forth and in and outside of the prison,” Cohen said.
Once inside a community, gang recruitment is now reaching down to even the junior high level. Juveniles don’t serve as much time when they’re arrested and the younger kids usually don’t have criminal records, so they are ideal for handling distribution, according to Brunton.
It’s not published anywhere which of these gangs are the most dangerous or most violent for fear that ranking them might create more violence. Authorities think gangs would intentionally commit more crimes and kill more people in the fight to be number one.
“It’s about street cred and it’s about trying to raise the profile of the gang,” Cohen said.
Gang activity has become more violent over the last 20-30 years and NGIC predicts that gang activity will continue, at least for the next several years.
“It’s going to continue to migrate to more rural urban, rural areas,” Brunton said. “The violence is probably going to continue as the more national gangs move in on the local gangs.”
Solving The Problem: GangTECC
In 2006, the Attorney General created GangTECC to combat the growing problem.
It’s an arm of the Dept. of Justice that brings together senior investigators from the FBI, U.S. Marshal Service, DEA, ATF, Customs, ICE and other federal agencies for the sole purpose of “disrupting and dismantling” violent gangs in the U.S.
“(It’s) a collaborative effort to share information amongst all the agencies, including our state and local partners, and bring these gang investigations together,” Sorukas said.
GangTECC is now the primary consumer of intelligence gathered by NGIC.
NGIC is made up of analysts from all of the federal agencies. The formation of GangTECC has made that information available to investigators from every agency at once.
“By putting everybody under one roof that information is now shared openly with everybody,” Brunton said. “The problem in the past was if the FBI had a case in Miami, ATF in Chicago didn’t know what was going on. They might be working the same target.”
GangTECC helps with existing state and regional investigations, identifies areas where more law enforcement attention is needed and proposes solutions to the U.S. gang problem as a whole, Cohen said.
This is just the beginning for GangTECC, as they continue to make their resources available law enforcement throughout the country.
“We hope that as word spreads, more and more local agencies that normally don’t have the resources or maybe the time and the personnel to investigate these cases effectively, we hope they come to GangTECC and bring their cases to GangTECC,” Sorukas said.
GangTECC’s latest weapon is a Top 12 Most Wanted list of the most dangerous and violent gang fugitives across the country. They’ve teamed with the U.S. Marshals to hunt these bad guys down.
“(We) raise the profile of the 12 that are on our list and bring all of those federal resources to try and capture them,” Cohen said. “Marshals Service really has the expertise in fugitive apprehension. By partnering with them we really want to tap into that expertise and bring the investigative strengths of all our partner agencies here at GangTECC.”
Now, GangTECC is counting on AMW viewers to spot these dangerous criminals and cross them off the list.
“The most important element…is to get these faces out there, let the public know how dangerous these individuals are,” Sorukas said. “Nobody is in the way of a gang any longer. They will take anybody out…if they are interfering with their business in today’s gang world.”
GangTECC is sending a message with their list. The hunt is on for these dangerous criminals and they’re not giving up.
“We’re coming. That’s the message. We’re coming for all of them,” Adam said. “As we start taking them off the list one at a time, we’re going to go back and fill that list. This is not a one-shot deal for us here at GangTECC.”