Central Islip, NY — Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy D. Sini took his long highly publicized war against MS-13 gangs to Capitol Hill, Wednesday morning, calling on the federal government to further join in the fight. Despite historic reductions in crimes in Suffolk County since last year, Sini said, there’s been an increase in gang violence connected to MS-13.
Commissioner Sini testified 10 a.m. Wednesday in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, alongside two other law enforcement officials, for nearly two hours on Capitol Hill. The subject: MS-13—the gang known for using machetes to carry out extreme violence. The other two are Montgomery County Police Department Chief J. Thomas Manger, of Maryland, and Scott Conley, a detective, in the Criminal Investigative Division of the Chelsea Police Department in Massachusetts.
Leaders of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs invited Sini to discuss the gang at a hearing titled Border Insecurity: The Rise of MS-13 and Other Transnational Criminal Organizations.
“The purpose of the hearing is to examine the presence and activity of gangs and transnational criminal organizations in American communities and the nexus to border security,” the Suffolk County Police Department said in a news release. “Commissioner Sini has been asked to provide insight on the impact of MS-13 activity in the Suffolk County, NY community, describe the police department’s initiatives in eradicating gangs and make recommendations to the Federal Government on how it can further assist in these efforts.”
The invitation comes after U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey Sessions recently visited Long Island to announce a nationwide crackdown on MS-13. Brentwood and Central Islip, two communities with large populations of Hispanic immigrants that MS-13 targets as recruits and victims, has seen 11 murders since September, with most attributed to gang violence.
“President Trump is very aware personally of the violence and murders here and has vowed to dismantle MS-13,” Attorney General Jeff Session said Friday in Central Islip.
Sini, who was confirmed by the county legislature to be police commissioner last February, announced this month his campaign to run as a Democrat for Suffolk County district attorney. Since assuming the title of commissioner, the former federal prosecutor has worked to repair relations with the FBI and other federal agencies—relationships that suffered under the regime of James Burke, the former police chief who is serving prison time for beating an inmate and trying to cover it up.
Each of the three officials spoke and then answered questions from U.S senators.
“What we’re seeing for the first time on Long Island is direct connections with young gang members to El Salvador. IN the past, we’ve seen connections from gang members in Suffolk County to the West Coast. Now it’s directly to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras,” Commissioner Sini said.
As for solutions, one suggestion that the Suffolk County Commissioner posed to senators is a database of gang members that law enforcement can reference.
“It would list all of the identified MS-13 gang members in the country and perhaps even El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras. It would include information: what cliques they belong to, what states, what countries.
The Notoriously violent street gang, MS-13 is a large problem in Suffolk County. Among many others, four recent murders in Central Islip bear the markings of the violent gang, police have said. Those recent killings brought Attorney General Jeff Sessions to the Island which brought the issue to lawmakers’ attention.
“They’re recruiting recent immigrants because oftentimes they prey on people’s fears,” Sini said. “Recent immigrants may not feel comfortable coming to law enforcement. They are adjusting to a new culture and society, so they are vulnerable at that point,”
Commissioner Sini says MS-13 recruitment is happening at a younger age as recruiters promise minors a family they can belong too and monetary stability.
“There’s one instance, we have the intelligence of MS-13 gang members recruiting a 10-year-old,” Sini said.
But besides gaining a sense of cultural unity, Sini said that sometimes the greatest incentive is self-preservation.
“There’s the other part: if you don’t join, we’re going to have problems,” he said.
The moto of MS-13 is ‘Mata, Roba, Viola, Contrla,’ (Kill, Steal, Rape, Control) according to a local gang expert.