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  • Mon, June 19, 2017 2:53 PM | NYGIA (Administrator)

     RIVERHEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — With the arrest of dozens of alleged MS-13 gang members on Long Island yesterday, many are asking; how do we keep people out of gangs to begin with?

    One anti-gang program in the jails is being expanded to convert gang members in hopes they can influence others once they get out.

    CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff got an exclusive look behind prison bars inside the Suffolk County Jail in Riverhead where a group of present and former gang members meets weekly trying to figure out how to put their fractured lives back together.

    “I joined the gang at 14, I’ve been shot three times, and I’ve been shot five times altogether,” Terrone Newsome said.

    Newsome, 20, of Central Islip said now he just wants to stay alive.

    Keia Armstrong, 21, of Amityville joined up with gangs and also got shot.

    “Hanging around a crowd of people that was out there hanging around being a follower, wanting to be somebody I wasn’t.” Armstrong said.

    Facing hard times for their crimes, inmates said they’re ready to turn their backs on the gangs, but wonder if there is any place for them to go once they get out. Their counselor said there has to be.

    “We hire people, we help people get jobs, and that’s what’s gotta happen — school-wide, community-wide,”Council of Unity, anti-gang counselor Bob Desena said.

    In communities like Hempstead that have been terrorized by gangs, you’ll get mixed reaction as to whether gang members should even be helped.

    “The major problem is it starts in the family, and I do believe they need education and help,” Natalie Vaughn said.

    Others favor the toughened law enforcement crackdown that led to the bust of 41 gang members of Thursday.

    “If they’re killing people, sure, they have to pay for what they’ve done,” Cindy Perry said.

    The inmates agree, they’ll have to serve their time, but said the gang intervention counseling has changed them. They regularly counsel young children visiting the jail on special school trips.

    “I just want to help the kids, I don’t want them to follow us, or follow people who join gangs because they still have a future,” Adriana Sanchez said.

    It’s a future they hope never involves closing prison gates.

    There are plans now to expand the program to the Yaphank Jail in Suffolk County.

  • Wed, June 07, 2017 9:48 AM | NYGIA (Administrator)

    BUSHWICK — A Bloods gang member was shot to death while sitting in his car at Broadway and Hart Street Friday evening, police said.

    Terrell Ortiz, 26, of Bushwick, was sitting in his white Nissan Altima on Hart Street Friday just before 7 p.m. when a black Nissan Maxima drove past his car, pulled a U-turn and parked, according to police who reviewed surveillance footage of the incident.

    One of the suspects got out of the car and walked towards Ortiz's vehicle before heading back to his own car, when he and another man started walking back toward the victim, police said. The suspects then split up as they neared the vehicle, with one of the men dressed in a red sweatshirt firing multiple shots at Ortiz, police said.

    Police got wind of the shooting using ShotSpotter, which detects gunfire, and rushed to the scene to find Ortiz with multiple gunshot wounds to the torso. 

    He was rushed to Woodhull Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

    Police said Ortiz was a known member of the Bloods gang and had several prior arrests that were sealed, as well as two open cases. He was arrested in the past for weapons possession and for a traffic violation, the NYPD added.

    No one had been arrested as of Monday morning, police said.

    Anyone with information in regards to this incident can call the NYPD's Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477).

  • Wed, May 03, 2017 11:03 AM | NYGIA (Administrator)

    After news broke that two Bellport High School students were among the four victims found dead after a brutal MS-13 attack, the community was put on edge. Shock and fear led to dozens of questions, which were heard and answered at a panel Q&A last week at Bellport Middle School.

    Over 100 people filled the auditorium and submitted their questions and concerns on cards read by moderator Dr. Joseph Giani, superintendent of South Country School District. The large panel included town, county and state officials, but the discussion was dominated by police commissioner Timothy Sini, Suffolk County probation officer Jill Porter and Bellport High School principal Tim Hogan.

    A top concern was safety at school. In response to the Central Islip incident, the district added two security guards to the high school and two full-time school resource officers from the Suffolk County Police Department, Hogan said, adding that school security guards would be participating in a gang awareness training session led by Porter later this month. 

    As students returned from spring break last week, a crisis team staffed with psychologists, social workers from the Family Service League and ENL teachers was ready, Hogan said. “It’s a difficult thing to manage because some kids are clearly upset and willing to use that type of service and others are not ready to do that yet,” he said. “I’ve asked the staff — who know our kids better than anybody — to be vigilant in monitoring students in the weeks and months ahead.”

    Gang activity is something Hogan said the district has been monitoring closely since two students were attacked in the woods last August. Several gang awareness assemblies with bilingual police officers had already been held, with similar programs in the works, Hogan said. 

    In November, the school district hired a bilingual social worker to work with those populations at the middle and high school levels.

    Parents also wondered how the school would deal with suspected gang activity at school. “Any students found with any gang-related clothing, comments or symbols will receive an out-of-school suspension,” he said. Beyond that, a superintendent’s hearing would determine if the student should be placed on home instruction for the rest of the school year. To date, Hogan said, five students will remain out of school for the rest of the year, but he could not discuss whether the infractions were gang-related.

    “How can I protect my son?” one parent asked. Porter’s advice was: “Be in your kid’s ear. If you’re not in your kids ear, someone else is.”

    Sini fielded questions about gangs in general: how prevalent they are in the area and what is being done to keep communities safe. According to Sini, there are several hundred known members of MS-13 in Suffolk County. As for their presence in North Bellport, “It doesn’t come close to numbers we see in Brentwood, Central Islip or Huntington Station,” he said. 

    Sini laid out two main objectives with respect to MS-13. The first, he said, was to solve all crimes, particularly homicides, committed by gang members. The second, more long-term goal, is to eradicate the gang entirely. In the meantime, patrols by both Suffolk County and state officers have been increased in vulnerable areas. 

    At a similar forum held in Central Islip last week, Sini addressed the crowd directly. “There’s someone in this room who has information about these murders,” he said. In Bellport last week, he explained that the gang preys on new, undocumented individuals. “Often, those with the most critical information are those individuals,” he said. “Our officers do not inquire into your immigration status if you come as a victim or witness to a crime,” he said, adding that cooperating with law enforcement could also lead to immigration benefits.

    “There aren’t many [Suffolk County] communities that aren’t touched by gangs,” said Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco in an interview earlier this week. “The federal government has a big role to play in this,” he added, calling for tougher border security, though disagreeing with the President’s call for an expensive border wall. “A combination of barriers and technology—drones, for instance—would not only stop gang members, but human traffickers and heroin coming in as well,” he said. “It would help local law enforcement agencies all over the country.”

    Both President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions weighed in on the proliferation of MS-13. In a tweet, Trump said: “The weak illegal immigration policies of the Obama Admin. allowed bad MS-13 gangs to form in cities across U.S. We are removing them fast!”

    After citing the Central Islip quadruple homicide, Sessions issued this warning: “If you are a gang member, we will find you.” He did not announce specific steps law enforcement would take, instead criticizing sanctuary cities for their policies. 

    “The reason why Jeff Sessions said that is because we called him,” Sini said. “There’s no doubt that in Suffolk County in the past, the police department did not work with the Feds. We will continue to target known gang members and suppress crime locally while working with federal law enforcement partners.”

    That was one of many guarantees made last Wednesday evening. Government officials, including County Executive Steve Bellone, Suffolk County Legis. Kate Browning and Rob Calarco, Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine and Councilman Michael Loguercio, all emphasized their commitment to work together to come up with solutions. Many acknowledged that the issue is multifaceted. “Is this a drug issue? Yes, it is. Is it a crime issue? Yes, it is. Is this an immigration issue? Yes, it is. A socioeconomic issue? Yes. It’s a complex problem with no simple solution,” said Assemb. Dean Murray (R,C,I-East Patchogue). “Unfortunately, like many nationwide problems, the solution must come from the local level,” said Calarco. 

    Porter disagreed. “The issue we are having here with MS-13 is really not an immigration status issue that dictates gang involvement,” she said. “If you want to decrease gang membership, embrace these children. Understand that they are being pushed away and labeled as a problem by the community.”

    Porter noted that in many Central and South American countries, government, police and even schools are rife with corruption. “Gangs run their country. Here, you don’t have to be in a gang — you can be anything you want to be in this country,” she said, emphasizing the importance of education. “There are all of these frightening things, but this is the side that people aren’t talking about. This is not a white, black or brown issue. This is a community issue. We’re not three separate areas, we’re one school community and we have to start acting like it,” she said, to the loudest applause of the evening. She also noted that she was trying to work with local community organizations to set up similar meetings and forums at churches to more successfully get these messages across to the Spanish-speaking community. “Look around you, there are mostly white faces here tonight. There’s a disconnect, and somehow we have to fix that.”

  • Wed, May 03, 2017 11:01 AM | NYGIA (Administrator)

    With gang involvement behind two Binghamton homicides within the past week, the city's law enforcement announced Monday that police are boosting their presence around neighborhoods and committing more resources to pursuing investigative leads.

    An April 22 shooting on Orton Avenue and another Friday night on Fayette Street  resulted in fatalities. At a news conference Monday in City Hall, Binghamton Police Chief Joseph Zikuski said these crimes are not the result of a "gang war" in the city, though investigators believe gang activity plays a role in both cases.

    The two homicides are believed to be related incidents, officials say, not random acts of violence. Motives remain unclear in both, Zikuski said, later adding there are no indications of a dispute over "turf or drugs" among gang members.

    "The Binghamton Police Department nor the mayor is gonna tolerate these thugs shooting up our streets," Zikuski said Monday. "If they have some beef, this isn't the way to settle it."

    Jihad T. Ray, 26, has been charged with a felony count of second-degree murder in the Orton Avenue shooting, which killed 22-year-old Brandon D. Hernandez, of Binghamton, around 4:55 a.m. outside an after-hours club near the intersection with Main Street.

    Jihad T. Ray


    On Monday, Zikuski said police learned Ray is a former member of the MacBallers, a subset of the Bloods street gang, but he got "thrown out" at some point. Fourteen members of the MacBallers from the Binghamton area were prosecuted in federal court after police raids in March 2014.

    Zikuski said police are looking for multiple suspects, including one shooter, in the most recent killing, which happened Friday night at 10 Fayette St., just several blocks from NYSEG Stadium, where a Rumble Ponies home game was being played at the time.

    Tyquan C. Gumbs, 24, was shot multiple times around 8:30 p.m. Friday, and police say his body was found at the rear of the Fayette Street property. A description of the suspects has not been released.

    As a result of both shootings, Zikuski said, police are not ruling out future acts of violence.

    "This is one side against the other ... so we're going to prepare for another shooting, if it takes place," he said.

    "People that live in the neighborhoods that this activity takes place in should have some concern," he added, "but (for) the average citizen ... this is not isolated, this is not random. These are some people that know each other."

    Regarding gang activities, Zikuski said, Binghamton is unique and less predictable than larger cities where rival gangs feud over territory. Here, he said, "it's all about money."

    One of the biggest challenges in handling these kinds of crimes are uncooperative witnesses, according to Zikuski. In both shootings, he said, there are numerous witnesses who have been reluctant to come forward.

    Binghamton residents should be vigilant about any suspicious activity in their neighborhoods, officials said Monday.

    Police cracking down

    At Monday's news conference, Mayor Richard David announced several efforts that are being rolled out by the police department in the wake of both homicides.

    Patrol officers will have an increased presence in city neighborhoods, with overtime shifts to cover hours with a higher volume of reported calls for service.

    The mayor's office also said the police department's Community Response and SWAT teams also will be keeping a tighter watch on "hot spot" crime areas to minimize response times to reported incidents, should they arise.

    David said these efforts take effect immediately, then added, "Violent criminals are not welcome in the City of Binghamton."

    How to help investigators

    Anyone with information about the recent homicides is asked to call the Binghamton Police Detective Bureau at 607-772-7080. Tipsters can remain anonymous.


  • Wed, May 03, 2017 10:59 AM | NYGIA (Administrator)

     Late at night, when helicopters thrum overhead and spotlights beam down onto lawns, many people here know exactly what's going on.

    "You just think, 'Oh, God, whose child is it now?'" said Stephanie Spezia, a longtime resident of this suburb in the heart of Long Island that's caught in the grip of a violent street gang with Central American ties, MS-13.

    MS-13 has been blamed for a trail of 11 corpses of mostly young people discovered in woods and vacant lots in Brentwood and neighboring Central Islip since the start of the school year.

    The bloodshed in the blue-collar towns has gotten the attention of President Donald Trump, who says it's the result of lax immigration policies that let too many criminal "scum" slip through.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday gave a speech about the violence to law enforcement officials near a park where the bodies of four young men were found this month bearing MS-13's hallmarks: repeated slashes from a blade that left them nearly unrecognizable.

    Some parents say they're afraid to let their children go to school. Teens say any perceived slight to a gang member, especially a refusal to join, can mean death.

    After one high school warned parents not to let their kids wear anything gang-affiliated, gang members started deciding on a daily basis what colors were off-limits, leaving students to guess what not to wear.

    "Kids are losing their childhoods," said Jennifer Suarez, whose 15-year-old niece was beaten and hacked to death last year. "You can see the stress on their faces as they get ready. It's like, you know, they're suiting up for battle."

    So how does a street gang with ties to Central America gain such an aggressive foothold in the suburbs of Long Island?

    MS-13, or the Mara Salvatrucha, is believed by federal prosecutors to have thousands of members across the U.S., primarily immigrants from Central America. It has a stronghold in Los Angeles, where it emerged in the 1980s as a neighborhood street gang.

    But its true rise began after members were deported back to El Salvador in the 1990s. There, the gang thrived and spread to Honduras. MS-13 and rival groups there now control entire towns, rape girls and young women, massacre students, bus drivers and merchants who refuse to pay extortion and kill competitors.

    That violence has prompted a migration of people trying to escape, especially children, who have streamed north because of a U.S. policy allowing people under 18 who arrive without parents to stay in the country temporarily with relatives or friends.

    Since the fall of 2013, the U.S. has placed 165,000 unaccompanied minors. Long Island has been a frequent landing spot. Suffolk County, which includes Brentwood and Central Islip, has gotten 4,500. Neighboring Nassau County has received 3,800.

    Sessions, speaking at a courthouse in Central Islip, said he believes gang members used this system to come north, too.

    "Bad guys know how the system works, and they have exploited it," he said.

    He later met with parents of some of the teenagers killed.

    In a recent roundup of 13 MS-13 gang suspects accused of murder and other crimes, seven had entered as unaccompanied minors.

    MS-13 is recruiting the unaccompanied children, Suffolk County police Commissioner Timothy Sini said. The youngsters, he said, "don't have an established social network, at least many of them don't, and MS-13 is providing that network."

    All told, nearly 200 MS-13 gang suspects have been rounded up since September. Among the tactics Sini has employed have been stepped-up patrols, renewed cooperation with an FBI task force and helicopter sweeps of wooded areas where gang members gather.

    Trump, a Republican, has promised to eradicate the gang in the U.S. through strict enforcement of immigration law.

    "We are putting MS-13 in jail and getting them the hell out of our country," he told The Associated Press. "They are a bad group, and somebody said they are as bad as al-Qaida, which is a hell of a reference. ... We are out in Long Island cleaning out the MS-13 scum."

    He spoke again about the gang on Friday in an address to the National Rifle Association.

    The tough talk has made some residents fearful of law enforcement and the gang. They say it's not about immigration politics but about making a community safer.

    Residents of Brentwood and Central Islip, with a combined population of about 100,000, say the area of modest ranch homes, warehouses and strip malls has always been a diverse, welcoming place for immigrants trying to make better lives for their children.

    Some longtime residents say law enforcement bears some of the responsibility for the gang's rise because it ignored the burgeoning problem for years.

    Parents say 4,200-student Brentwood High School lacks the means to help children who are often left alone after school because their parents work long hours. There are few social workers and guidance counselors, they say, and not enough security guards or cameras.

    "They can't walk the halls without fear," said Evelyn Rodriguez, the mother of 16-year-old Kayla Cuevas, who was found beaten to death last fall.

    In the months leading up to Kayla's death, she was involved in disputes with members and associates of MS-13, prosecutors said. Rodriguez said her daughter stood her ground and ended up dead.

    Kayla and her 15-year-old friend Nisa Mickens were walking on a street near their homes when men with baseball bats and a machete attacked them.

    Nisa was found dead on a residential tree-lined street a day before her 16th birthday. Kayla, who lived a block away, was discovered in a wooded backyard nearby.

    "People, they missed the opportunity to know a really great person," said Nisa's father, Rob Mickens, who's running for the school board to help push for change. "They would have loved to know her."

    Bertha Ullaguari said she noticed her 18-year-old son, Jorge Tigre, going from a good student on track to graduate from Bellport High to someone too afraid to go to school.

    Then she got two truancy letters. When she pressed her son, he refused to tell her what was going on.

    "Some bad things happened there," Ullaguari said, her voice trembling.

    She had heard he had his tires slashed. There were rumors of gangs.

    And then, about two weeks ago while she was driving with her daughter, they got a mysterious call. A girl on the line said Jorge was dead along with three others in a park.

    "We nearly killed ourselves from the shock," said Ullaguari, an Ecuadorean immigrant.

    The bodies of Jorge and the three others were found cut, their torsos exposed and hands bound, steps from a playground.

    "It could happen to anybody's child, anywhere," Evelyn Rodriguez said. "We all need to be aware of this, and we need stand together. Because I don't want it to be your child."

  • Thu, April 20, 2017 7:32 AM | NYGIA (Administrator)

    CENTRAL ISLIP, Long Island (WABC) --

    A community in Central Islip sieged by gang violence is looking for real answers from police.

    They're tired of feeling scared.

    They're tired of the drugs and violence destroying their neighborhood and are desperate for help.

    Tuesday night the Suffolk County Police told them that they have a plan.

    Families arrived at the Knights of Columbus Hall Tuesday night hoping to get some answers about the murders of four teenagers last week allegedly by gang members, and to learn if any arrests were imminent.

    Vanessa lives a block from the park where the bodies were found.

    "It's a little scary because my children, we went there the day before to play, so now my children can't play, they're small children," Vanessa said.

    "We understand that these murders were tragic, we understand that the community is hurting and we stand with them, we hurt as well, and we'll stop at nothing to solve these murders," said Commissioner Timothy Sini, Suffolk County Police Department.

    Police Commissioner Sini laid out a strategy that involved first just identifying gang members, using the FBI and federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO) laws to put them in jail, and for the longer term, providing alternatives for young people.

    "Summertime is coming, kids don't have to be idle, we're going to have to find something for them to do instead of being idle on the streets and being influenced by gang members who want to pull them in and increase their numbers," said Donald McCarthy, a resident.

    So far, the murders of four young men remain unsolved and some are not confident the police can prevent it from happening again.

    "I think they're all honest and earnest but, you know I'm kind of a law and order guy and. (at some point they have to do something?) Yes." Said David Miller, a resident. 

  • Wed, March 22, 2017 10:22 AM | NYGIA (Administrator)

    The Hispanic United Association of Westbury held an educational forum last week to inform community members on how they could help keep their kids from getting involved with gangs and violence.

    The crowd of about 150 mostly Hispanic parents and community members filled into the Westbury Middle School auditorium to hear from keynote speakers Sergio Argueta, founder of S.T.R.O.N.G. Youth, a Long Island organization that specializes in youth, gang and gun violence prevention and intervention, as well as Detective Luis Salazar from the Nassau County Police Department.

    Luis Romero, an outreach worker with the Roosevelt/Freeport Economic Opportunity Commission (EOC) of Nassau County, brought his son to the program, saying that in his line of work he often sees parents who don’t know how to deal with issues such as gang violence, suicide or depression.

    “Sometimes it’s best for [teens] to hear from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, as opposed from parents,” Romero said, noting that ages 10-14 is when the issues of gang-related violence and depression begin to spring up. Children of undocumented parents who come to the states before their family are also more susceptible to joining a gang, as the gang offers a family environment. “Dialogue and communication is important. If there’s been a gap of years, you need to reconnect with your children. Sometimes there’s a lot of resentment and that’s why a lot of kids join gangs. We’ve been seeing that a lot.”

    Superintendent Dr. Mary Lagnado noted that preventing gangs and violence was essential in making sure students received a proper education.

    “It is something that is now at the top of our list as one of the topics we have to tell our parents on how it can be prevented,” Lagnado said in opening remarks to the crowd. “We have to make sure our students are safe and secure so they are ready to learn. Without that, there will be no learning.”

    Social worker Lewis White helps lead a club at the middle school called Council for Unity, which gives students a safe environment where they can voice their feelings and be informed about the dangers of gangs. About 15 teens attend the voluntary meetings, which are held three times a week. He said the educational forum was a good resource for parents looking to know how to help their kids avoid gangs.

    “It makes the community more aware of the potential problem of gangs in the community and the resources and alternatives of their kids getting involved in gang activity,” White said. “It helps them know how to keep their kids from getting involved with things like that.”

  • Sat, March 04, 2017 9:42 AM | NYGIA (Administrator)

    BUFFALO - With law enforcement in Buffalo struggling to solve gang-related homicides, we are now learning that the city's gang population is higher than previously disclosed.

    The local FBI office runs the Safe Street Task Force. It works cooperatively with local agencies include the Buffalo Police Department. 2 On-Your-Side has learned that as of December, the task force has identified some 55 street gang in Buffalo with total gang members around 700.

    These are starkly larger numbers than ones reported two years ago when the agency released figures of 30 gang and 300 members. An FBI spokeswoman attributes the increased numbers to better intelligence and identifications methods, not due to actual growth of gang ranks.

    "You want to get somebody out of a gang? You want to take a gun out of someone’s hand? We need to get them a job that pays well,” says activist Duncan Kirkwood.

    Kirkwood grew up in the Central Park section of the city. After getting a college degree, he has returned to Buffalo to help re-build the East Side of the city where he grew up. He says young people turn to gangs because they feel there are few other options to get ahead.

    Kirkwood says "(Gang members are) putting money in your hand immediately. They’re giving you ways you can all of a sudden get the nice clothes and feel normal, feel like a regular person.”

    Kirkwood believes the FBI gang figures for Buffalo may be over-stated. But a law enforcement source says Buffalo's gang population may be larger than the newly released number.

    The source points out teens are a "tremendous source of violence" in the region. And the FBI does not include minors when counting city gang members.

  • Sat, March 04, 2017 9:41 AM | NYGIA (Administrator)

    BUFFALO - The Buffalo Police Department (BPD) still struggles to solve its gang related killings.

    A joint-investigation by 2 On-Your-Side and Investigative Post revisited the ability of the city force to solve murders. Two-years ago, a similar probe found that the solve rate for BPD was far below the national average.

    That remains true today. Looking at killings in Buffalo from 2014 through 2016, the percentage of solved, or as police say "cleared", murder cases was 34%. 

    In 2014, the solve rate stands at 42%. For 2015, it's 37%. Last year, just 25% of homicides committed in Buffalo have been solved.

    According to the FBI, the national average is roughly 60%.

    In many murder categories such as those involving robberies, domestic disputes and child abuse, the city force was very successful, solving nearly three-quarters of those killings.

    The biggest challenge is gang and drug-related homicides.

    In the three-year period we reviewed, there are 77 murders attributed to street gangs. Police have cleared just 7 of these cases.

    Why are these crimes so difficult to solve?

    "Our number one impediment is witness cooperation and that had been a challenge for the last ten, fifteen years,” says former Acting Erie County District Attorney Michael Flaherty.

    Before holding down the top job at the county prosecutor's office, Flaherty was a long-time assistant district attorney. During his one-year tenure running the office, the number of successfully prosecuted murder cases jumped from 17 in 2015 to more than double that, 36 in 2016.

    Flaherty says often the most difficult part of closing homicide cases is getting witnesses to come forward and testify.

    “It’s a multi-faceted problem. And it involves fractured relationships between police and members of community…especially the inner city and that’s on us,” says Flaherty.

    Flaherty believes, for years, area law enforcement often did not visit crime-prone neighborhoods unless there was a call for help. Much of today's unsolved murders in Buffalo occurred on the east and west sides, areas that have large concentrations of people of color.

    “I don’t know any officer who knows the names of the good kids from the community. There may be some and I just may not know them but it doesn’t feel that way," says Jamielah Huggins.

    Huggins is African-American, lives in Buffalo and worries about her 15-year-old son. She describes the relationship between city police and violence-prone neighborhoods as broken.

    “They can build those relationships. The officers who police those communities have to,” says Huggins.

    For a cop, learning a neighborhood and the people who live there can take time, and the head of the police union says too often officers are moving from call to call without time to stop and talk with citizens.

    "they’re coming into work. They’re getting their orders from their lieutenant and there’s calls waiting for them to be answered. There’s not a lot of time,” says Kevin Kennedy, president of Buffalo Police Benevolent Association.

    Despite multiple requests for interview, the BPD did not offer anyone from the force to talk about the unsolved murders and the challenges of clearing gang-related killings.

    And the challenge may be larger than previously known. The local FBI office's Safe Street Task force gathering information on street gangs and shares that with local law enforcement including the BPD.

    FBI spokesperson Maureen Dempsey tells 2 On-Your-Side that as of December 2016, the task force had identified 55 separate street gangs in Buffalo and some 700 gang members. Membership number could be larger than that. The FBI does not count anyone under the age of 18.

  • Sat, March 04, 2017 9:38 AM | NYGIA (Administrator)

    More than a dozen members of the MS-13 gang were indicted Thursday on seven killings on Long Island spanning three years, including the deaths of several high school students last year.

    The US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York said the 13 members of La Mara Salvatrucha, known as MS-13, face offenses including seven murder charges, racketeering, attempted murder, assault, obstruction of justice and arson in the 41-count indictment unsealed Thursday in federal court in Central Islip, New York.

    "Law enforcement was determined that these brutal murders wouldn't turn into cold cases," US Attorney Robert L. Capers told reporters.

    Two of the students -- Nisa Mickens, 15, and Kayla Cuevas, 16 -- were beaten with baseball bats and a machete, Capers said. The girls attended Brentwood High School in Brentwood, a working-class community in Suffolk County, about 45 miles east of New York City.

    At the time, police said there appeared to be gang involvement in the girls' deaths and the deaths of two others, whose skeletal remains were found after they had been missing for months. Police have not announced arrests in the latter two deaths.

    "The Brentwood family has spent the last six months in mourning, but today marks the beginning of the healing process for this beautiful and resilient community," Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy Sini said.

    Kayla was involved in a "series of disputes" with MS-13 gang members and associates months earlier, authorities said. She and friends then became involved in an altercation at Brentwood High a week before the girls' deaths, authorities said. MS-13 members vowed to seek revenge.

    On September 13, gang members went looking for rival gang members to kill in Brentwood, authorities said. Prosecutors said gang members, including one man who was indicted, saw the two best friends. The girls had gone for a walk that night, News 12 Long island reported.

    They recognized Kayla, and got permission to kill the girls from two gang leaders, who were also indicted, authorities said.

    A passerby found Nisa's body on a Brentwood street on September 13, the eve of her 16th birthday, Sini said. The next day, Kayla's body was discovered in the backyard of a nearby home.

    "My message to the people of Brentwood and all of Suffolk County is that although we are keenly aware that nothing will ever undue the heartbreaking loss of Nisa and Kayla, we can take solace in the fact that their savage murderers will be held accountable," Sini said.

    Authorities said a third Brentwood High School student, Jose Pena, 18, was killed on June 3, 2016. His skeletal remains were discovered on October 17, 2016, in a wooded area that served as a burial ground for MS-13 victims, Capers said.

    Pena was killed because he was suspected violating gang rules, federal authorities said.

    "His bones bore marks of repeated stab wounds and beatings with a bat, a blunt force instrument," Capers said.

    Sini said Suffolk police have cracked down on gangs. Police have collected intelligence on MS-13 members and created a list of gang members to put under surveillance. Officers have arrested members for various crimes, he said.

    Since September 2016, Sini said, 125 MS-13 members have been arrested.

    "We are going to eradicate MS-13 from these communities," Sini said.

    MS-13 is one of the largest criminal organizations in the United States, according to federal authorities. An international criminal organization, it has more than 6,000 members in the United States, including a presence in at least 46 states and the District of Columbia, officials said.

    More than 30,000 members operate mostly in El Salvador, Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala, federal authorities said.

    MS-13 is the largest and most violent street gang on Long Island, the US Attorney's Office said.

    Capers said two of the suspects are US citizens. A third suspect is a legal permanent resident and the rest are undocumented immigrants, Capers said.

    If convicted, the defendants could face up to life in prison or the death penalty.

    CNN's Darran Simon contributed to this report.


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