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Local police, DA encouraged by Trump administration remarks on MS-13 gang crackdown

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The Justice Department is cracking down on violent street gangs, specifically one with ties here on the Central Coast.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions says MS-13 is one of the gravest threats to America's security, a sentiment echoed by Santa Maria Police Chief Ralph Martin.

"If you are a gang member, we will find you, we will devastate your networks, we will starve your revenue sources, deplete your ranks, and seize your profits," said Sessions. He went on to say stricter vetting at the border and stricter immigration enforcement is necessary to stop MS-13 gang members.

"I was really happy to hear about the comments from the Trump administration, in that the Trump administration appears to understand the gravity of gang violence in California and across the country. Specifically, he mentioned MS-13, and once again we are gratified to know that he cares and now what we're hoping for is that Santa Barbara County can receive funding so that we can adequately prosecute the crimes in the way that they should be prosecuted," said Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley.

"I think if they categorize MS-13 as a terrorist organization as they have in El Salvador, I think that would go a long way and we can start removing these criminals," said Chief Martin.

The attorney general went on to criticize sanctuary cities, saying they only add to the gang violence.

"Sanctuary cities dangerously undermine this process," he said. "Harboring criminal aliens only helps violent gangs like MS-13. Sanctuary cities are aiding these cartels to refuel their ranks and putting innocent life, including the lives of countless law-abiding immigrants, in danger."

"Santa Maria city has never been a sanctuary city, the city council has made that clear, the mayor has made that very clear, and I don't know how it helps to claim yourself as a sanctuary city. I think you just attract more problems," said Martin.

About a year ago, federal and local law enforcement conducted a sweep of suspected MS-13 gang members along the Central Coast. Police ended up arresting more than a dozen people, charging some of them with murder. Some of the defendants are due back in court on June 2.

Sessions estimates that MS-13 has more than 10,000 members in at least 40 states.


 

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