The infamous ultra-violent Salvadoran based gang MS-13 is listed as among the most powerful street gangs in Texas, in the just released annual 'Gang Assessment' from the Department of Public Safety, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
The gang, which is formally called Mara Salvatrucha, is listed as the third most powerful criminal gang in the state, with 600 to 1,000 members. MS-13 has formally been active mainly on the east and west coasts. It is listed as one of the four 'Tier 1' gangs which are responsible for the most violence and criminal activity in the state.
The report says for years, Texas has been an 'arrival point' for MS-13 gang members who are headed to other areas, but for the first time in 2017, MS-13 opened a strong operation in Houston, and has been involved in violent criminal activity, including murder, in the Houston area.
As has been the case in previous years, the loosely organized Tango Blast is listed as the largest criminal gang in the state, followed by the Mexican Mafia. The report says there are an estimated 100,000 criminal gang members in Texas today, which, as a proportion of the state's population of 27 million, is a relatively low number.
But the Gang Assessment says more and more, unlike traditional gangs like the Italian Mafia, where control is tightly exerted from the top, Texas street gang members are going their own way, 'opting for less organizational oversight and the freedom to serve in self-interested roles." The report says some of that is due to a desire to avoid the conspiracy charges which are frequently employed by prosecutors to bring down gang members
.Much of that is due to the Tango Blast's successful rejection of the traditional 'blood in, blood out' style of gang membership, where a person joins the gang for life, with no option other than death to exit the gang.
The report shows Texas based gangs are working more closely with the powerful Mexican cartels, to engage in operations ranging from drug running to weapons and human smuggling.
"Gangs provide direct support to cartel drug and human smuggling operations into and throughout Texas and the nation. Cartels also utilize gang members to procure and move weapons and money to Mexico, and sometimes to commit violent crimes on both sides of the border."
The report says 'race and ideology' are playing less and less of a role in gang membership and activities, with the pursuit of illicit profit being the number one goal of gang members.
As far as outlaw motorcycle groups, the report concludes that the deadly 2016 shootout at the restaurant in Waco has crippled the once powerful Bandidos gang and has opened the door for other motorcycle gangs to fill the void, mainly a group called the Kinfolk, which is made up largely of 'disgruntled Bandidos members.'
Tier Two gangs include some familiar organizations like the Bloods, the Aryan Brotherhood, the Crips, and the Latin Kings.
Stepped up anti gang activity led by local police departments is credited with deteriorating the power of many once dominant Texas street gangs.
In the San Antonio area as in all of the large urban counties studies, assault is by far the number one crime committed by violent street gangs, followed by homicide, kidnapping, human trafficking, and sexual assault.