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  1. Homeland Security Investigations
  2. What We Investigate
  3. Transnational Gangs

Transnational Gangs

Transnational Gangs

Gangs strike fear into our local neighborhoods, commit violent crimes against our citizens and facilitate criminal activity such as narcotics and firearms trafficking, sex trafficking, human smuggling and trafficking, and corruption.

Transnational criminal gangs threaten public safety in communities throughout the United States. These gangs strike fear into local neighborhoods, commit violent crimes against our citizens, and facilitate criminal activity, such as narcotics and firearms trafficking, murder, extortion and corruption.

One of the largest and most violent criminal organizations in the United States is MS-13, which has over 10,000 members in as many as 40 states. The gang is known for its extreme violence, including its brutal initiation rituals and acts of intimidation and retaliation against rival gangs, law enforcement officials and community members.

To combat this threat, HSI conducts multijurisdictional and international investigations that target gang leadership, members and associates in the United States and abroad. We do this to help keep our cities and communities safe.

Understanding Transnational Gangs

Transnational gangs are criminal organizations that operate across international borders. Transnational gangs take advantage of differences in legal jurisdictions and law enforcement capabilities to avoid detection and prosecution, making it more difficult for authorities to investigate their illegal activity.

Transnational gangs operate illegal businesses and are involved in a variety of crimes to fund and grow their criminal enterprises. They focus on increasing their market share by decreasing other gangs’ power and reach. This competition often leads to violence between gangs and against the communities where these gangs operate.

Transnational Gangs’ Impact

Transnational gangs’ activities impact our communities in the following ways:

  • Public safety. Transnational gangs increase crimes such as murder, assault and kidnapping in our communities. Their illicit activities often lead to turf wars and intimidation tactics, posing serious threats to public safety.
  • Corruption. Gangs often corrupt public officials, law enforcement authorities and judicial systems through bribery, intimidation and coercion. Gang-related corruption weakens public trust in government.
  • Fear and intimidation. Gang-related violence and intimidation tactics create a climate of fear and insecurity in communities. People may feel unsafe and are reluctant to report gang activity or cooperate with law enforcement due to fear of retaliation.

HSI's Response to Transnational Gangs

HSI uses its broad legal authorities to prevent transnational gangs from growing. We partner with domestic and international law enforcement agencies to identify and trace gangs’ activities. Together, we determine the best legal authorities to use to arrest criminals, seize gangs’ illicit proceeds and help victims.

HSI’s Operation Community Shield disrupts and dismantles violent and dangerous transnational street gangs. HSI and its partners arrest, prosecute and imprison gang members. These efforts help suppress violence on our streets and keep our communities safe.

The Path Forward

Violent transnational criminal gangs and their criminal activity challenge law enforcement at every level.

Combating transnational criminal gangs requires coordinated action and cooperation among governments, law enforcement agencies and international organizations. Intelligence-sharing, joint operations and targeted measures to disrupt gang activities and dismantle criminal networks are critical actions in the fight against these ruthless organizations.

Last Updated: 04/22/2024
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