As the Suffolk County Police Commissioner, I have taken the lead in the war against MS-13 and drug dealers. We have already taken the steps to implement a successful multipronged strategy in Suffolk County, and it has resulted in the arrests of more than 300 MS-13 gang members in just one year. The strategy is based on the collection of criminal intelligence, effective policing, and collaboration with a multitude of law enforcement agencies and levels of government.
Its success has received national attention and, by all accounts, is considered an aggressive and innovative plan to stop violent gangs from spreading in Suffolk County.
In fact, our work in Suffolk has been noticed outside of New York. I have testified before both the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives regarding MS-13 and my strategy to eradicate the gang from Suffolk County. I have also personally met with the Attorney General of the United States and asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) for specific resources to help in our fight. I am happy to announce that the DOJ recently granted my request and will be providing Suffolk County with a $500,000 grant toward our efforts. I was also invited to improve the collaboration between American law enforcement agencies and the government of El Salvador, with the objective of dismantling the gang. But the real acknowledgement of what we do is noticed in how our police and our law enforcement leaders have come together to make some of the country’s largest arrests of violent gang members.
What many people don’t realize is the District Attorney’s office is a critically important part of this strategy. As District Attorney, I will be able to take what we have built in the police department to a whole new level and eradicate these gangs from our county once and for all. The strategy has multiple components that can all be enhanced as District Attorney.
I believe my record speaks loudly, but you should also know and understand our basic approaches to combating MS-13 and other gangs. The following is an overview of my enhanced plan— broken into 10 steps—to eradicate gangs from Suffolk County.
In the end, there are four components to attacking gangs: intelligence, coordination, execution, and prevention. All four come together to build a comprehensive plan that is greater than the sum of its parts. That’s how we beat these thugs.
1. Data. Data. Data. Task the Police Department with generating and collecting as much intelligence as possible regarding the gang and its members, including identifying known gang members. It’s as simple as that. If you prioritize it in the police department, you prioritize getting it off the streets
2. Identify. Using this intelligence, the Department creates strategic subject lists of identified gang members and assigns police officers with expertise in gang enforcement to specific gang members to target those individuals.
3. Train. The assigned police officers are highly trained and knowledgeable in gang activity, including activity of the MS-13 gang.
4. Target. The officers target MS-13 gang members relentlessly and conduct street arrests whenever possible. Since September 2016, Suffolk Police have made more than 280 MS-13 arrests of more than 190 MS-13 gang members. This has resulted in a historic reduction in crime, the gathering ofsignificant intelligence regarding MS-13, and the collection of evidence that will be instrumental in future prosecutions of the gang.
5. Coordinate. Under my leadership, the Department works closely with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the United States Attorney’s Office, through the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force, to prosecute MS-13 gang members under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute. The federal RICO statute is a very effective tool to dismantle violent street gangs such as MS-13.
6. Partner. Since the creation of this partnership, the Task Force has arrested over 30 MS-13 gang members for serious federal crimes, including more than eight MS-13 homicides. See the news stories: “Reputed gang members charged in double murder of Brentwood teens,” “17 arrested for brutal murders by MS-13 gang in Long Island, NY.” Also, the Department works closely with the Department of Homeland Security to target confirmed MS-13 gang members who are illegally present in the United States. More than 100 MS-13 gang members in Suffolk County have been detained for deportation since I created this partnership. This strategy is used to target active MS-13 gang members who are here illegally but whom law enforcement is not in the position to arrest under the federal RICO statute.
7. Localize. Target locations where MS-13 operates. The Department has partnered with the State Liquor Authority, various towns and villages, and the Department of Homeland Security to conduct raids of locations that act as safe havens for MS-13 gang members. This effort has resulted in the closure of several businesses where MS-13 operated. See the news stories: “Two Patchogue bars raided as MS-13 hangouts, police say,” “Six arrested in raids at four Huntington Station bars.”
8. Prevent. Taking out gangs is important. Never allowing them to exist is crucial. We can do this by investing in our schools and communities to prevent young people from joining gangs in the first place.
9. CHANGE. Law enforcement must weed out criminals from our communities, and we must provide the seeds so that our communities can prosper. That is why we created a gang prevention program called CHANGE. CHANGE targets at-risk young people to prevent them from joining gangs in the first place. The program exists in Brentwood, Central Islip, Wyandanch, and North Bellport. CHANGE provides services and mentoring to young people who are most at risk of joining gangs. Additionally, it involves the family in the process, which is critical to the child’s success.
10. Reform. All of this is for nothing if we don’t reform our system. That’s why I led the call for legislative reform to allow our communities to more effectively prevent MS-13 activity in Suffolk County. Additionally, I will continue to offer testimony before Congress regarding the need to reform the Unaccompanied Alien Children program codified in Title 8 of the United States Code. Presently, children from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala are being placed in Suffolk County in record numbers, with hardly any oversight or funding by the federal government. For a variety of reasons, this segment of our population is particularly vulnerable to MS-13 recruitment, which is why I have called for specific reforms to better protect our communities.
This is why I’m running to be your District Attorney. There, I can continue to lead the fight against MS-13 and bring our strategy to the next level by bringing in more and better partnerships, resources, and attention to the fight. I will make it priority number one to investigate and prosecute violent street gangs and ensure that violent criminals receive significant prison sentences so that our neighborhoods remain safe. I will create a special division specifically tasked with prosecuting MS-13 gang members. In doing so, I will partner with the United States Attorney’s Office to coordinate prosecutions of MS-13 gang members, which is sorely needed.
And as your D.A., I can ensure that prosecutors are notified immediately of an MS-13 arrest so they can work with the police early on to enhance the prosecution. We can use asset forfeiture money, money seized from criminals, to fund evidence-based gang prevention programs in our schools and communities to stop recruitment.
As necessary, I will continue to be a leading advocate for legislative reforms that allow state prosecutors to more effectively prosecute gang members under state law – this time, with a bigger pulpit. Specifically, I will call for a state version of a RICO statute, that will provide local prosecutors with an additional tool to dismantle violent street gangs such as MS-13.
Gangs, particularly MS-13, are a scourge on our community – they endanger our children and our communities, and fundamentally impede our way of life. No one has the experience or record I have when it comes to putting away gang members, and that is why I want to take the fight to the next level.