HSI’s El Salvador country team led an agenda focused on cross border collaboration and joint U.S./Salvadoran efforts on the ground that included the participation of the Salvadoran Attorney General, Douglas Melendez and the Director General of the Policia Nacional Civil, Howard Agusto Cotto. The U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador, Jean Manes, and other enforcement partners, participants discussed first-hand issues of gang-violence, insecurity, economic difficulties in El Salvador and their impact on the U.S., as well as our interagency team’s continued effort to confront those problems.
"This is real-time coordination and information sharing, finding ways to leverage both local and international partnerships in combatting this vicious transnational gang. HSI is building on partnerships and pushing out our borders,” said Acting EAD for HSI, Derek N. Benner. “Our bilateral relationship with El Salvador remains stronger than ever, as do Salvadoran social and cultural ties to the United States. This week we highlighted the bonds between us and Salvadoran law enforcement, finding ways to move forward together with a commitment of continued cooperation.”
Discussions held during the three-day meeting included new strategies in enforcement efforts, noting that killing for power and control remains central to MS-13's strategy, but also their extortion activities in both countries that add tremendous amount of pressure on business owners in El Salvador as well as targeting immigrant victims in the U.S. The group also discussed efforts in programs aimed at preventing youth from joining gangs, and rehabilitate those who join gangs, noting potential funding support for youth education and employment activities in the Salvadoran municipalities, and youth programs that deter children from joining gangs, something being debated in both the United States and El Salvador.
The Salvadoran government, with U.S. Embassy support, is combatting gangs and reclaiming territorial control in the highest crime communities, and has succeeded in reducing the homicide rate by 40 percent in the last year. The Salvadoran government is a close and collaborative partner on law enforcement matters to fight gangs with Salvadoran links in the United States. However, a great deal of work remains to solidify the security gangs of the last year and extend our law enforcement partnership.
Federal, state and local law enforcement partners invited to attend from New York included Suffolk County Police Department (SCPD), Nassau County Police Department (NCPD) New York City Police Department (NYPD), the U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO) for the Eastern District of New York, the USAO for the Southern District of New York, and the District Attorney’s Office for both Suffolk County and Queens County. Partners from Maryland included Prince George’s County Police Department, Anne Arundel County Police Department and the USAO for the District of Maryland.
HSI’s International Operations Division is the Department of Homeland Security’s largest investigative presence overseas. Division personnel serve as liaisons to governments and law enforcement agencies across the globe and work side-by-side with foreign law enforcement on HSI investigations overseas. The division’s attachés have a variety of duties, including relationship building and aiding on active investigations and repatriation efforts.
HSI’s National Gang Unit oversees HSI’s expansive transnational gang portfolio and enables special agents to bring the fight to these criminal enterprises through the development of uniform enforcement and intelligence-sharing strategies.