MS-13 has nearly as many members as police in one wealthy Virginia county

Combating the barbaric MS-13 gang is no easy task in one wealthy Virginia county where the group's membership is nearly equal to the number of cops trying to rein them in.

While U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made dismantling the notorious group a priority for his Justice Department, the gang’s membership is estimated to be as high as 10,000 in the United States -- and a good chunk of that membership was clustered in one Virginia community.

In affluent Fairfax County, Va., there were nearly 1,500 members, according to a 2015 police intelligence report. The report said there were about 2,000 members representing 80 different gangs in the county, however, 70 percent of the members were affiliated with MS-13, a police spokesperson told the Washington Post.

That means there were about 1,400 gang members affiliated with MS-13 in the county.

But things may be looking up.

According to an estimate given to the Post in June by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, there were roughly 900 to 1,100 MS-13 members in the greater Washington, D.C. region, of which Fairfax County makes up a large part.

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Still, the number of Fairfax County police officers on the ground fighting MS-13 and other gangs is just slightly higher.

According to the 2015 report, the county’s police department had 1,722 employees, of which about 1,240 are officers on patrol and part of the organized crime and gang units combined. Also included in the total of 1,722 employees are staff members such as secretaries.

Fairfax County is the third wealthiest county in the United States, with a median household income of nearly $113,000, Forbes reported.

In the ongoing war to bring MS-13 to heel, Sessions designated the gang a top “priority” for his department, a move that directs prosecutors to pursue all legal avenues -- including racketeering, gun and tax laws -- to target the gang.

The new designation also lets local police departments tap into federal money to help pay for things such as wiretaps, interpreters and overtime related to cases involving the gang, but it does not mean all local MS-13 cases will qualify for extra funding, he said.

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"MS-13 members brutally rape, rob, extort and murder," Sessions told hundreds of police executives at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Philadelphia. "With more than 40,000 members worldwide, including 10,000 in the United States, MS-13 threatens the lives and well-being of each and every family everywhere they infest."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.