Utah Investigators Watching For MS-13 Gang Members

Utah Investigators Watching For MS-13 Gang Members

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Samantha Hayes reportingMara Salvatrucha,or MS-13, is one of the most violent street gangs in America. A huge crackdown resulted in mroe than 100 arrests in New York, Newark, Baltimore, Washington, Miami, Dallas and Los Angeles.

But gang officers in Utah are keeping their eyes peeled for MS-13 as well.

L.A. investigators warned Utah about this gang recently during the annual gang conference. There have already been about 12 documented cases of MS-13 activity in the Salt Lake area.

Nearly half of the suspects arrested in that nationwide sting have prior arrests or convictions for violent crimes.

MS-13 is most active in major U.S. cities, but Utah officials say membership is branching out and they have documented a few cases here.

"Salvatruchas" are named after guerilla fighters in El Salvador. And members of the gang in the U.S. are known for their extremely violent behavior. That's why investigators all over the country worked together, arresting 103 alleged members nationwide.

Chris Oles/ Park City Police Gang Officer: "They've been known not to fear law enforcement at all. That's probably the biggest issue."

Local investigators believe there are 50 active gangs in the Salt Lake Valley. Many of them come from L.A., and that's a city where MS-13 is strong.

Chris: "L.A.P.D. helped us out as to how to get on top of it and not let it become a problem."

Investigators don't consider MS-13 a problem in Salt Lake, but they have indentified a few so-called members.

Chris: "MS-13 is the big head group, and there are a bunch of cliques that come off of MS-13 from what I understand. Right now, activity is based on only five people at one time saying they are members-- not really members-- saying they are associated with MS-13."

Nationwide, investigators believe there are 8,000 to 10,000 members in 31 states, the majority in the country illegally from Central American countries. Most of those recently arrested were in New York, Washington, D.C, Los Angeles, Baltimore, Newark, and Miami.

In Utah, the Salt Lake Area Gang project is keeping a close eye on any signs of the gang locally.

Chris: "We share our information we gathered with angencies throughout the whole valley and now the whole Wasatch back is doing the same."

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