Rep. Frank R. Wolf Jr. (R-Va.) recently asked the FBI for an update on violent street gangs in the region. Here are excerpts from the FBI report to Wolf:
MS-13 is an emerging gang problem in Northern Virginia. There are an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 MS-13 members, according to reports from local law enforcement. The FBI's Washington field office has identified approximately 22 cliques existing in Northern Virginia. The cliques are primarily involved in homicides, malicious woundings, robberies and witness intimidation. In addition, vandalism and other property crime are associated with MS-13.
MS-13 cliques have been identified in Leesburg, Manassas, Manassas Park, Herndon, Ashburn, Arlington and Alexandria. In general, the areas from Centreville to Alexandria and Leesburg to Manassas were the sites of various levels of MS-13 activity.
While MS-13 remains a significant threat, other gang activity has been reported and documented in Northern Virginia. There has been an increase in the reporting of homegrown or "neighborhood" gangs. None of these gangs are known to have any direct connection with the nationally known groups bearing similar or the same names. The Hells Angels, Outlaws, Pagans and Bandits motorcycle gangs are reported to be increasing in numbers in Northern Virginia as well.
There are approximately 15 Asian gangs operating in Northern Virginia. Each clique has a reported average membership of 30 members. The Asian gangs have a documented presence in Arlington, Alexandria, Centreville, Falls Church, Fairfax City and Baileys Crossroads. In general, they operate primarily in Fairfax County but live in areas from Centreville to the west and Alexandria to the east. They are involved in homicides, assaults, robberies, drug trafficking, prostitution, illegal gambling, extortion, burglaries, auto theft and credit card fraud.
Within the groups identified, the Vietnamese gangs remain the most violent. Operating primarily in Arlington, Falls Church and Fairfax, they engage in criminal activity such as drug trafficking, extortion, credit card fraud, gambling, burglary and home invasion/robbery.
The home invasion/robberies perpetrated by these gangs have had the most devastating impact on the Asian community. Their victims are predominantly local business owners who are believed to keep large sums of cash within their homes. These crimes often go unreported to law enforcement because of fear of retaliation. Since 1996, cooperation between the FBI and local law enforcement has led to the successful federal prosecution of more than 70 gang members. Continued use of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statutes to prosecute members of the two most notorious Vietnamese gangs has led to the dismantlement and the disruption of illegal activities committed by members of these gangs.
Generally, the central and Northern Virginia areas have seen a big increase in Hispanic gang activity over the last several years. Like most areas, there is a large legal and illegal Hispanic population.
Fredericksburg and Culpeper are greatly influenced by Fairfax County's gang members. Local police reported gang-related violence and gang recruiters in these areas. A recent shooting in Fredericksburg was believed to be an MS-13 gang retaliation shooting. While the problem is much less in Culpeper, the Culpeper Police Department and Sheriff's Office are considering a gang task force effort.