Is MS-13 on Your Campus?

Your school or institution of higher education might have MS-13 members on campus. Here’s how you can address this issue.

MS-13, also known as the Mara Salvatrucha, is a violent criminal gang that operates in the United States and abroad, especially in Central America. Law enforcement has estimated that MS-13’s membership is around 10,000 in the United States, and that number has remained relatively constant since 2005.

“There is also a current debate about the relationship between gangs such as MS-13 and unaccompanied alien children (UAC) arriving in the United States,” according to MS-13 in the United States and Federal Law Enforcement Efforts. “Some have suggested that MS-13’s presence in Central America could continue to drive unauthorized migration into the United States by those seeking to escape the gang and its violence. There are also concerns that MS-13 may exploit the U.S. Southwest border by bringing young gang members from Central America to the United States as UAC or may recruit some of the vulnerable UAC to join the gang’s ranks once in the United States.”

Keeping this potential threat in mind, there is the distinct possibility that U.S. schools and institutions of higher education could have enrolled as students or even employed as staff members individuals who are affiliated with MS-13.

At Campus Safety Conference West, held in Las Vegas, Nevada last week, Brentwood School District Director of School Safety Carlos Sanchez presented MS-13 – The Most Dangerous International Gang: Managing Gangs in Schools, Colleges and Our Communities. In his presentation, Sanchez, provided a brief history of U.S. gangs, why campuses are easy gang recruiting grounds, how youth are recruited, which students are most vulnerable to recruitment and which students are targets of MS-13.

In this video interview with Campus Safety, Sanchez discusses some of the trends K-12 and college campuses are seeing as well as some potential interventions schools can use to help students turn away from MS-13 involvement.

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About the Author

robin hattersley headshot

Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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One response to “Is MS-13 on Your Campus?”

  1. J. Findling says:

    Great clip and Carlos brings a wealth of knowledge in working with this gang in elementary and secondary schools. I encourage readers to read(or reread) a recent three part article published in this magazine on gangs in the post- secondary setting which reviews (at great detail) this issue and offers solutions for interventions and supports. Also within the Campus Safety archive you can find Gangs 101 which is a great reference for the basics that truly have not changed very much conceptually over time. Technology plays a factor in the increased range of access but at the core, the reasons for gang involvement and the signs and support school officials must remain aware of remain he same.

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