The Port Washington Police Department played a significant role in a sweeping federal government initiative to root out and deport illegal aliens who have engaged in serious criminal activity. The crackdown focused on a notorious Salvadoran street gang known as MS-13 and led to the arrests of 103 suspected members nationwide including 30 on Long Island and 4 in Port Washington.
The local arrests, which were conducted by the Port Washington Police Department simultaneously with arrests nation-wide, took place in the morning hours of Tuesday, March 10 in Great Neck, Manorhaven and Port Washington. The four locals arrested ranged from 25 to 33 years of age; three resided in Port on Dunwood Rd., Belleview Ave., and Avenue A. The fourth resided in Manhasset. They had been previously arrested for crimes such as burglary, robbery and possession of narcotics. One subject arrested in Port was alleged to be an original leader of the gang. All four were identified in an investigation of two suspected MS-13 slayings on Long Island last year. They offered no resistance when arrested and are now under federal jurisdiction while awaiting deportation proceedings.
The arrests were made under a program known as Operation Community Shield, which is sponsored by Immigration Customs Enforcement Unit (ICE) of the Immigration and Naturalization Service of the federal government and consists of village, county, state and federal law enforcement personnel. The task force consists of federal enforcement agents who run the names of gang members submitted by local police and suspected or arrested for a criminal act, through a database to check their immigration status. Those found with immigration violations for either prior criminal convictions or of failing to comply with administrative requirements, can be arrested and deported. About one-half of the 103 arrests nationwide have been arrested or convicted of violent crimes. After the task force was formed in 2001, Chief William Kilfoil quickly recognized the potential and, with the enthusiastic support of the Board of Commissioners, committed the resources of the Port PD to join in this undertaking.
MS-13 was organized in Los Angeles in the late 1980s and spread across the United States in the same migratory pattern as the Salvadoran immigrants. While some gangs are into drugs, MS-13 may commit any crime at anytime. They may wear the colors of blue and white, which are taken from the Salvadoran flag. The gang's name, MS-13, stands for Mara-Salvatrucha which loosely translates to 'a gang supporting the ideals of Salvador.' The number 13 represents a 13-second beating, which is delivered in the initiation of new members.
MS-13 gang members across the country have come together to unite into affiliated groups along the East coast. The February 2005 issue of Police magazine reports that, once MS-13 comes into a community, it grows quickly and estimates as many as 300 members are situated on Long Island. Several murders in Nassau County have been linked to MS-13 and indicate that gang violence has moved into the upper middle class enclaves of suburban Long Island. Since there is no extradition treaty with Salvador, MS-13 gang members who commit serious crimes in the country, are afforded sanctuary in their native country if they choose to flee.
After the Port PD's participation, Chief Kilfoil was invited to a Monday, March 14 press conference from Washington, D.C. where he told a nationwide television audience that he "gave full credit to the federal government for reaching out to local law enforcement agencies such as the Port Washington Police Department."
Kilfoil is committed to keeping the Port PD in Operation Community Shield, which he calls 'an effective means to unify local law enforcement and the federal government in joining forces to make our streets safer.' He extended special praise in this effort to 'his detectives, uniform patrol and the Port community' who have made significant contributions to this program. Kilfoil suggests that Port residents who feel they may have valuable information should contact Detective Sergeant Paul Gros either by going to headquarters or calling 883-0500 ext. 313.