The War Next Door: Transnational Gangs Terrorizing American Cities

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: And tonight, "The War Next Door". A special edition of "Hannity" with a full hour taking a closer look at some of the most important and controversial topics in America right now.

Now the Mexican border and illegal immigration -- there's been a lot of talk about spill-over violence in cities and states near the southern border. But there's an often overlooked threat that knows no boundaries and preys on people all across the country.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's try to keep it tight if he comes out because we don't want this guy running.

HANNITY (voice-over): As the sun rises in Staten Island, New York, federal agents are closing in on a wanted Mexican gang member.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a dead giveaway because he's got a big 13 like right under his chin, above his chest.

All right, take him. Take him.

On the ground. On the ground. (Speaking in foreign language.) On the ground. (Speaking in foreign language).

HANNITY: Staten Island is a long way from the Mexican border but the large tattoo on his chest is evidence of a dangerous cross-border connection.

ROBERT W. CLARK, FBI ASSISTANT SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: The 13 represents the 13th letter of the alphabet which is M. That shows affiliation to the Mexican mafia or actually association with the Mexican mafia.

HANNITY: The Mexican mafia is a hyper violent organization run from behind prison walls. Now its effects are felt in all corners of the United States where street gang violence terrorizes communities and leaves a bloody wake.

OFFICER DANNY GARCIA, LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPARTMENT: Murders, robbery, assault with deadly weapons, carrying guns, selling narcotics, the list goes on and on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ultimate demon behind all of it is the prison gangs. In case of the Spanish gang is the Mexican mafia. They're the ones that are pulling the strings to get things done.

CLARK: They are now able to -- from the prisons -- control a majority, upwards of 95 percent of the Hispanic gangs that are operating on street.

HANNITY: That's tens of thousands of gang members spread out in all 50 states.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The goal of the Mexican mafia is to control the entire illicit drug territory. That's what they want. They want to be in the background pulling all the strings, having all these gangsters doing what they do, and collecting all the money.

GOVERNOR RICK PERRY R-TEXAS: The most significant threat to our state security is the rise of these ruthless and powerful transnational gangs.

JAMES T. HAYES, ICE SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: They are very violent. They operate as criminal organizations. There's more evidence today than there was even 10 years ago of these violent transnational gangs being involved in narcotics smuggling, in human smuggling, being involved in seeking to identify and utilize routes that are going to subvert law enforcement.

CLARK: Our investigations and intelligence has shown us that those drug cartels are actually utilizing a lot of the street gangs here in the United States to facilitate the criminal enterprise through helping people get into the United States illegally. Certainly for the transportation of narcotics and the transportation of firearms.

HANNITY: Two of the most ruthless and fastest growing transnational gangs are 18th Street and MS-13 or Mara Salvatrucha.

OFFICER ALFREDO AGUAYO, LAPD GANG UNIT: Both 18th Street and MS, which are two of the largest gangs in the nation, originated out of this city.

OFFICER ANTONIO HERNANDEZ, LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPARTMENT: These gangs have taken control of this area. Most of the people here are undocumented so they are scared to call the police because they fear that they may be deported.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's all about the MS gang!

HANNITY: MS began in the '80s among immigrants fleeing a bloody civil war in El Salvador.

CLARK: From that, they were very used to violence. So a lot of the street violence was very natural for them. And they were able to engage in that very regularly. Now MS-13 gang members engage in violence readily. They're not afraid to be violent against rivals gang members and even their own gang members who do not follow the rules of the gang.

HAYES: Almost half of our 600 arrests over the last three years have been of the MS-13 members. They have really a complete and total disregard for human life. We have seen instances where they have taken the lives of children of former gang members, of children of people who have failed to pay narcotics debts.

They are probably the single most concern when we talk about the transnational gangs in the United States.

HANNITY: They use brutality and fear to completely take over anything in their territory like this apartment in downtown Los Angeles.

SGT. MIKE PATRIQUIN, LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPARTMENT: You see it's a real-life apartment. They took the whole place over. Yesterday about six MS-13 gang members were arrested. You see those symbols on the wall here? It's all over the place. They have the 13 means they're associated with the Mexican mafia.

They've taken over this whole apartment. They've written on the wall. And this closet here, we found a loaded 44 handgun -- 44 Magnum handgun so it was a very dangerous situation.

HANNITY: So the LAPD takes no chances when dealing with known gang members.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Los Angeles Police Department. Come out with your hands up.

HANNITY: And the gang unit hits the streets in a daily battle to identify and disrupt those terrorizing the city. But what might seem on the surface like a local crime problem is actually something much larger.

CLARK: MS-13 and other Hispanic gangs are criminals of opportunity. They are going to seize opportunities to become involved in more high- profile enterprises, i.e., the drug cartels operating in central and South America.

Drug cartels see the gangs here in the United States as a conduit by which to facilitate their criminal enterprise, and the majority of that is drug trafficking and it has now evolved into money laundering.

HANNITY: And so as the gang threat grows, so did the state and federal task forces charged with taking them down.

From New Jersey to California, Utah to Virginia, federal agents are targeting the most violent in massive sweeps and taking thousands of illegal weapons off the streets.

The crackdown is having a definite impact but it's an uphill battle. But locking up or even deporting them, well, that has little effect.

AGUAYO: They couldn't work, they're doing out robberies, selling narcotics, carjacking people, beating people up. They get caught. They get sent to prison, they do their time.

Whenever someone gets sent to prison for the cause of the gang they elevate their status. And obviously, the higher you are in the hierarchy, the more you can control a gang. Now you served time you're up there in the food chain.

HANNITY: And back in their home countries they return with an elevated status as well, only now more violent and more determined to return to American streets.


Content and Programming Copyright 2010 Fox News Network, Inc. Copyright 2010 Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.