What the FBI Wants to Hide From You In Their 2011 Gang Threat Assessment

The cover of the law enforcement sensitive version of the 2011 National Gang Intelligence Center 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment.

Public Intelligence

What information from its most recent gang threat assessment does the FBI want to keep only for the eyes of law enforcement? Thanks to the publication of the full “law enforcement sensitive” version of the assessment on the website of the California Gang Investigator’s Association, we now know the answer to that question. The full version of the document contains approximately twenty additional pages of information regarding gang threats across the country including details on the incredible proliferation of Mexican drug trafficking organizations into collaborative relationships with U.S. street gangs. Most of the content derived from non-public reporting sources, such as FBI field reports, concerns specific incidents that are described more generally in the public version of the document. There are also some rather startling statistics that are omitted from the public version. For example, the fact that 36% of law enforcement report that gangs in their jurisdiction have ties to Mexican criminal gangs and drug trafficking organizations is omitted from the public version of the report. After doing a page by page comparison of the two versions of the document, we have summarized some of the most interesting non-public portions of the report:

  • ATF recovered 4,524 firearms from gang members and gang associates in 2011
    • 297 of the firearms had been used in a crime within one year of acquisition. ATF trace analysis data further indicates that 558 weapons were recovered from gang members and associates during the commission of a criminal activity. Firearms were most commonly recovered from Bloods, Crips, Gangster Disciples, Latin Kings, Mexican Mafia, Norteños, Sureños, and Vice Lords gang members.
  • More than 36 percent of law enforcement report that gangs in their jurisdiction have ties to Mexican criminal organizations, such as Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations (MDTOs)
    • 2010 Bureau of Prisons and NGIC reporting suggests that MDTOs are using white supremacist gangs, such as the Aryan Brotherhood, to smuggle drugs into California and into prisons, as well as traffic illegal weapons into Mexico.
    • In 2010, officials in California reported an increase in MDTO associates engaging law enforcement with lethal force, which involved seven incidents of officer-involved shootings when confronting MDTO affiliated marijuana cultivators, according to California Department of Justice reporting.
    • US-based gangs and DTOs struggling to retain control of their territories, distribution networks, and illicit proceeds may initiate violence within the United States and Mexico. Some MDTOs appear to be expanding kidnapping operations (typically used for enforcement and retribution purposes) as an illicit profit source, and may target US citizens residing along the Southwest border. Federal law enforcement reporting indicates that MDTOs, such as the Gulf and Sinaloa Cartels, have instructed operatives in the United States to employ lethal force against US law enforcement to defend their drug shipments.
    • Hispanic prison gangs in the Southwest Border region are strengthening their ties with MDTOs to acquire wholesale quantities of drugs, according to NDIC reporting. In exchange for a consistent drug supply, US-based gangs smuggle and distribute drugs, collect drug proceeds, launder money, smuggle weapons, commit kidnappings, and serve as lookouts and enforcers on behalf of the MDTOs. MDTOs subsequently profit from increased drug circulation in the United States, while US-based gangs have access to a consistent drug supply which expands their influence, power, and ability to recruit.
    • Street and prison gangs along the Southwest border region assist MDTOs in committing kidnappings in the United States by targeting and abducting victims and transferring them to MDTO enforcement squads in Mexico. The San Diegobased Calle Treinta gang; Westside gang, the Arizona Mexican Mafia (AMM); Barrio Azteca, Texas Syndicate, Tri-City Bombers, and Tango Blast gangs from Texas have all been reported to have participated in MDTO-ordered kidnappings.
    • Recent seizures in Denver, Colorado identify close involvement between street gangs in the Denver area and drug traffickers in Mexico and along the Southwest border. In July 2010, a search warrant tied an Untouchables street gang member to nearly half a million dollars intended for a source of supply in Juarez, Mexico, according to FBI reporting.
  • Gangs are proliferating through the prison system, making law enforcement worried about terrorist radicalization and inmate communications
    • Law enforcement officials in the Southwest region have noticed some incarcerated gang members with tattoos written in Arabic or Farsi, according to September 2010 law enforcement reporting. Tattoos in Farsi have been seen in concert with drug cartel tattoos and may suggest that these criminals are tied to Hezbollah, gangs, or drug cartels.
    • California Department of Corrections and Rehabilition (CDCR) reporting indicates that, since January 2011, several inmates in California have used contraband cell phones to facilitate their escape from non-secure minimum custody CDCR institutions
    • In 2011, officials at a California prison intercepted coded kites which included gang monikers, detailed the positions and functions of gang members, and provided instructions to one gang member to establish a street operation in support of the gang.
  • Budget cuts are severely impacting police gang units around the country
    • Limited resources and budget cuts have reportedly constrained many law enforcement agencies’ ability to target and dismantle gangs in their jurisdiction. Law enforcement officials nationwide report that budget issues have affected their agency’s gang unit or task force and subsequently their ability to combat gangs in their region.
  • Law enforcement agencies and the military are increasingly being infiltrated by gang members seeking access to training, confidential information and military-grade weapons
    • According to October 2010 FBI source reporting, a Brotherhood outlaw motorcycle gang (OMG) member in southern California was recruiting former and active duty military personnel for the gang.
    • A prospective Outlaws Motorcycle Chapter in Wilmington, North Carolina has been recruiting predominately active duty military servicemen from Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base, according to June 2010 FBI reporting.
    • Atlantic City, New Jersey, has numerous gang members employed with the Public Works Department. In 2010 a street gang member in Atlantic City was arrested for selling heroin on the job while employed with the Public Works Department, according to NGIC reporting.
    • In January 2010, police in California discovered that a Los Angeles Police Department applicant, also a sworn California peace officer and a US Marine Corps Reservist, was a member of the Sureños Avenues street gang. Consequently, the gang member had extensive knowledge of law enforcement and military tactics and weapons.
    • OMGs such as the HAMC, Bandidos, and Outlaws, engage in routine and systematic exploitation and infiltration of law enforcement and government infrastructures to protect and perpetrate their criminal activities, according to NGIC analysis. OMGs regularly solicit information of intelligence value from government or law enforcement employees, as well as encourage associates and relatives to obtain law enforcement and judiciary employment so as to gather information on rival gangs and law enforcement operations.
    • Gang members are specifically targeting law enforcement officials, facilities, and vehicles to obtain weapons, ammunition, body armor, police gear, badges, uniforms, and other forms of official identification
    • In August 2010, a former member of the Vagos OMG in California was killed in an ambush-style shooting by Brotherhood OMG members wearing military-issued ballistic vests and employing military combat tactics during the attack. One of the Brotherhood members involved in the shooting was an active duty military serviceman at the time of the assault.
    • Gang members armed with high-powered weapons and knowledge and expertise acquired from employment in law enforcement, corrections, or the military will likely pose an increasing nationwide threat, as they employ these tactics and weapons against law enforcement officials, rival gang members, and civilians. Associates, friends, and family members of gangs will continue to play a pivotal role in the infiltration and acquisition of sensitive information.
  • Gangs are increasingly using technological means, such as VOIP and prepaid credit cards, to conceal their activities
    • Gang members are increasingly modifying and exploiting technology to facilitate secure communication. VoIP and prepaid cellular telephones allow gang members and criminals to communicate discreetly both
      inside and outside correctional facilities, while minimizing detection by law enforcement authorities. VoIP, gaming systems, and virtual worlds enable gang members to communicate globally and more discreetly than through the use of traditional e-mail and cellular telephones and are increasingly difficult to intercept or monitor by law enforcement.
    • Skype, a popular VoIP service, has the potential to be used to facilitate, organize, and commit criminal activity. According to both open source and reliable FBI source reporting, suspected criminals and drug traffickers in the United States, Europe, Asia, and Mexico have communicated and discussed criminal transactions over Skype.
    • Gang members and drug traffickers are exploiting and modifying online gaming capabilities and virtual world applications to communicate covertly and facilitate criminal activity with minimal detection, according to FBI source reporting. Gang members in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, and Indiana have utilized the wireless headsets and VoIP functions of Xbox gaming systems to communicate with their drug suppliers and discuss gang-related business.
    • Street gang members are also involved in cyber attacks, computer hacking, and phishing operations, often to commit identity theft and fraud. Thirty percent of law enforcement officials indicate that gangs in their jurisdiction are involved in cyber identity theft, while 18 percent indicate that their gangs are involved in computer hacking and phishing operations.

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