Law-enforcement and youth services officials say that “statement crimes” committed by Hispanic gangs to establish their presence have inspired brazen attacks, including a recent spate of stabbings and slashings in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties.
“Those kinds of attacks would be to send a message—‘We’re in town’ or ‘We’re taking over,’ ” said Steve Nawojczyk, who works in youth services in Little Rock, Ark.
“Many times their violent acts are simply to establish their reputations as the meanest and the baddest around,” said Mr. Nawojczyk, whose Web site www.gangwar.com has been cited by several news organizations and publications nationally.
According to statistics compiled by Virginia State Police and Maryland State Police, the number of aggravated assaults and murders committed with knives has increased by about 2.5 percent in each state since 2001.
But as authorities have tracked the growth of the Salvadoran MS-13 street gang in the region, knifings have become more violent in broad daylight and public places.
Over the past two weeks, there have been five stabbings or slashings in Hispanic communities in Langley Park, Colesville and Wheaton that have killed two and injured nine persons.
The violence in the Hispanic community first captured the attention of the public, the police and politicians in May 2004, when a 16-year-old boy was attacked by MS-13 members with a machete in Fairfax County, officials said.