Montgomery County Police and Maryland authorities have drastically reduced gang violence by targeting gang leaders and conducting youth outreach, according to Maryland State’s Attorney John McCarthy.
“We are not looking to go to low-level gang members,” McCarthy said. “We’re looking to go to the leadership, the ones who are calling the shots.”
After a “tremendous explosion” of homicides in Montgomery County in 2015 and 2016, prosecutors and police got additional funding from the Montgomery County Council to combat gang activity, McCarthy said.
“In a two-and-a-half-year period of time, we had 26 gangland slayings in Montgomery County,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy’s office and Montgomery County police have worked diligently to combat the violence. His office prosecuted about 165 gang cases in total last year.
“As a result of that, we saw gang homicides in 2018 [go down to] zero,” McCarthy said. In 2019, there were three gang-related homicides in the county.
MS-13, a group originally intended to protect Salvadoran immigrants from other Los Angeles gangs, is by far the most violent and active gang in Montgomery County, according to McCarthy.
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“They have been arrested and convicted of more than three times more crimes than any other single gang,” he said.
While the focus of their efforts is on leaders of gangs like MS-13, McCarthy’s office is also doing outreach to young men and boys who arrive in Montgomery County as unaccompanied minors from Central America. McCarthy says this is the most vulnerable population to gang recruitment.
“Sadly, a lot of the kids who come here as unaccompanied minors are here because they are trying to escape the threat to join gangs in the countries that they fled from, only to be recruited on the streets of Gaithersburg, Wheaton and Silver Spring,” McCarthy said.