CRIME

New York launches task force to combat MS-13 gang on Long Island after recent murders

April 13, 2017: A man walks past police tape near a crime scene in Central Islip, N.Y. where the bodies of four homicide victims were found.

April 13, 2017: A man walks past police tape near a crime scene in Central Islip, N.Y. where the bodies of four homicide victims were found.  (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Officials in New York announced a new anti-gang initiative on Wednesday to crack down on violence by the MS-13 street gang plaguing communities on Long Island, including four murders earlier this month.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said 25 officers from the New York State Police will be sent to Suffolk County, including six new investigators who will join the FBI-led Long Island Gang Task Force and a new Long Island-based member of the State’s Gang Intelligence Unit.

"Every New Yorker deserves to feel safe and secure in their home, however the recent rash of gang-related violence by MS-13 has threatened the safety of our communities," Cuomo said. "We must all work together to fight these senseless crimes, and I want Long Islanders to know that New York is launching a full scale effort to help our partners in law enforcement eradicate this violence once and for all."

Cuomo said officers will do more "undercover work," involving patrols using marked and unmarked cars with an expanded presence in the Brentwood and Central Islip areas of Suffolk County, located around 40 miles east of New York City.

"They are getting more outrageous and obnoxious in their activities," he said.

"MS-13 are thugs, that's what they are," Cuomo added. "They are thugs that prey on young people. They seduce them into a life of gang violence."

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MS-13, also called Mara Salvatrucha, is believed to have been founded as a neighborhood street gang in Los Angeles in the mid-1980s by immigrants fleeing a civil war in El Salvador. It grew after some members were deported to El Salvador, helping turn that country into one of the most violent places in the world.

Since September, 11 victims of gang violence have been found dead in two adjoining communities in Suffolk County, Brentwood and Central Islip.

On April 12, the bodies of four men ranging in age from 16 to 20 were found in a community park near a children's playground and soccer field in Central Islip. All four had "significant trauma" wounds inflicted by sharp instruments, according to police. Police have offered a $25,000 reward to solve the most recent case, but so far no suspects have been identified.

"The reality is that we are facing a new threat by a criminal organization that is as brazen as it is brutal in the level of violence and brutality," Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said Wednesday. 

In March, police arrested eight MS-13 gang members in connection with the September killings of two teenage girls in nearby Brentwood.

Earlier this month, President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions both mentioned MS-13, and Sessions specifically referenced the Long Island killings before meeting with top federal law enforcement officials on ways to dismantle violent transnational gangs. Sessions is set to visit the area Friday to discuss further action.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.