Officials in Montgomery County are reporting a jump in recruitment by the MS-13 gang, leading to a spike in violent gang activity.
A wave of MS-13 members were arrested for heinous crimes three years ago and "that specific gang was substantially dismantled," Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy said. Recruitment of the El Salvador-based gang now appears to be on the rise.
"It's pretty evident based on the intelligence I'm being provided, that they are attempting to reestablish a toehold in the metropolitan area and specifically back here in Montgomery County," McCarthy said. "There seems to be an uptick in violent, gang-related activities, specifically to MS-13."
Roberto Gutierrez Cruz, 22, was found dead in a wooded area near his home close to the Lakeforest Mall in Montgomery Village, Maryland. Prosecutors said the two men and one teenage boy charged with the crime killed Cruz because they believed he was connected to a rival gang.
Cruz was beaten up in October by alleged MS-13 members and told police, according to WAMU 88.5, which was first to report on the increase in activity by the gang. Officials told the radio station Cruz was murdered by one of the people he reported.
Daniel Adonai, 19, Juan Espinal Rapalo, 18, and Luis Avelar Morales, 17, were charged with first-degree murder and held without bond. Morales was charged as an adult.
Montgomery County prosecutors are focused on trying to dismantle MS-13, McCarthy said.
"We are about intervention. We are about prevention and trying to educate both parents and kids about the dangers of getting involved in gangs," he said.
Anyone with knowledge of gang activity can submit information to police anonymously.
"Standing by idly or silently when these things are going on in your community only breeds further violence," McCarthy said.