Posted on September 23, 2005

Crackdown Against Latin American Crime Gangs

Expatica, Sept. 22

MADRID — The capital’s new police chief announces a crackdown on the Latin American gangs behind a rising tide of violent crime.

Enrique Baron said doing away with Latin American gangs is one of his priorities, because the “maras,” as they are called, have become a serious public safety problem.

“Steps are being taken” to end the violence associated with the gangs “in the sense of reinforcing existing mechanisms and equipping units with all necessary human and material resources,” Baron said.

In his first public address as police chief, Baron stressed the need to combat “all forms of complex criminality,” including organized crime and illegal immigration, “especially where it entails the extortion and exploitation of the most disadvantaged.”

Crimes linked to the “maras” have multiplied in Spain in recent years, especially in the larger cities.

The phenomenon is difficult to control because minors are usually involved.

Brawls and revenge attacks among such gangs as the “Latin Kings” and the “Ñetas” are increasingly observed in the suburbs of such cities as Barcelona and Madrid, where police have identified at least 400 gang members.

Most gang members are male, and 80 percent of them Ecuadorian, but there are also Dominicans, Colombians, Peruvians and even some Spaniards, all engaged in vying for turf.

Even though they commit minor thefts and hold-ups to buy food or for the thrill of intimidating people, gang members seldom live off crime and, according to police, pose no serious threat to the population at large, “because their rivalries are among themselves,” a police investigator told EFE.