GAITHERSBURG, MD (WUSA9) – It starts early. WUSA9 learned Thursday, gang leaders are recruiting new members in a disturbing place: Elementary Schools.
“Oh grade-school. They’re recruiting in grade-school but generally 5th grade and on,” said Northern Virginia Regional Task Force Director Jay Lanham.
It may feel like they’re babies, but 5th grade and on, the time kids are starting to find themselves, has become a prime target age for MS-13 gang recruiting especially, according to Lanham.
His team is aiding the investigation into the gang-related murder of 15-year-old Alexandra Reyes-Rivas, the Montgomery County teen found dead in Springfield, Va. this past weekend.
“Even more concerning is the increase in juvenile violent offenders,” he said.
Thursday investigators confirmed five suspects with gang links are now charged in Reyes’ murder and abduction. Of those five, investigators say three are 17-years-old. Police also said another five teenagers are charged with gang participation.
“Son dentro,” said Reyes’ grieving mother on Wednesday. “They’re inside,” is what she said in English, referring to gang activity in her daughters’ schools. She told WUSA she believed her daughter’s involvement began in middle school. The family lives in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
Alexandra Reyes went to Watkins Mill High School, according to a Montgomery County Public Schools Spokesperson, who says Reyes dropped out. The spokesperson said Reyes was no longer a student, so when her body was found in Virginia, a note did not go out to parents and students. full story
The majority of the gang is ethnically composed of Central Americans (mostly Salvadorans) and active in urban and suburban areas.
In the U.S., the MS-13 has an especially heavy presence in Los Angeles County and the San Francisco Bay Area in Northern California; the Washington, D.C. metropolitan areas of Fairfax County, Virginia, Montgomery County, Maryland, and Prince George’s County, Maryland; Queens, New York; Long Island, New York; Newark, New Jersey, Plainfield, New Jersey; Jersey City, New Jersey; Elizabeth, New Jersey; the Boston, Massachusetts area; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Houston, Texas. There is also a presence of MS-13 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. source