Sarah Kennedy, Calgary Sun, March 16, 2006
Members of North America’s most violent and notorious street gang have taken up residence in Calgary, the Sun has learned, and experts are warning police to take heed.
The Hispanic Mara Salvatrucha gang, whose vicious crime sprees have gripped Central American cities, as well as Los Angeles and New York, also now has a presence in Calgary, say police.
But so far they have kept a low profile in the city, said Sgt. Gavin Walker of the gang unit.
“There are indications through intelligence gathered that there are some members in the city, but so far we haven’t been able to link them to any particular crimes in Calgary,” he said.
“We haven’t seen any signs of their violence or danger, but we are concerned with anyone in our community who is involved in criminal activity.”
Walker said last August a suspected member of the Mara Salvatrucha or MS-13 was deported from Calgary and the gang unit will be keeping close tabs on remaining members living in the city.
And that is exactly what Calgary cops should be doing, says L.A. Police Department’s Det. Frank Flores, who has been actively battling the MS-13 presence in his city for about seven years.
“Nip it in the bud in the beginning,” he said.
“They mask themselves in the Hispanic community and they are mistakenly viewed as a minor presence, but by the time they become well-known, they are well entrenched.”
Flores, who is the LAPD’s expert on MS-13, said they are currently one of the most violent gangs in the world.
“It’s deadly serious,” he said.
“They come from war-torn countries and their propensity for violence is more than most gangs.”
The MS-13, which originated amongst Salvadoreans living in L.A., has gained notoriety because of their international reach.
It’s believed there’s about 50,000 members in Central America and dozens living in Toronto and Vancouver.
Al Valdez, former supervisor of the gang unit for the Orange County district attorney’s office, said the gang moves into North American cities initially looking for work and tends to infiltrate hispanic communities.
“They stay under the radar at first and usually threaten the immigrant community,” he said.
“Any gang can be violent, but MS-13 right now tends to be at the top of the heap,” he said.