A string of violent stabbings connected to the MS-13 gang across Washington, D.C., is causing panic among residents.
Members of the Latino community in neighborhoods affected by the recent violence are speaking out on the dangers the vicious MS-13 gang, based in El Salvador, pose to the region. Residents are generally fearful to speak out about the gang, fearing retribution, which makes policing the gang difficult. Several recent stabbings connected to MS-13 are causing renewed concern among residents, reports WUSA9.
While two of the stabbings cannot be directly linked to the gang, residents are unnerved by the recent rash of violence in the city.
“I don’t know about the gang violence,” Ernesteine McNeill, a resident near Columbia Heights, told WUSA9. “It’s just that there’s a lot of violence.”
During a stabbing in Columbia Heights on Aug. 30 at 12:30 p.m., the attacker said to his victim, “What are you doing in our block, we are marasalvatruca [MS-13].” A group of men attacked a man on a bicycle and stabbed him in the arm before he could escape at 1:05 p.m. The men asked the victim if he was an MS-13 gang member, according to the police report.
“It has a lot of affect, like it’s not safe to be out late,” Abiha Bilgrami, a resident in Northwest, D.C., told WUSA9. “It’s scary to know that they’re here.”
Police arrested two members of the MS-13 gang in July for the grizzly murder of Cristian Antonio Villagran-Morales, 18, in Malcolm King Park in Gaithersburg, Maryland on June 16. The assailants allegedly lured the victim into the woods with text messages promising sex. Once they had the victim alone, the other suspects held him down and stabbed him more than 40 times.
Counties across the Washington, D.C., region are suffering from a large spike in criminal activity from the MS-13 gang, which is increasing violent attacks and recruitment. Fairfax County, Virginia experienced a 163 percent increase in MS-13 crimes from 2015 figures in the first four months of the year.
Leaders of the gang from El Salvador want to shift their focus in the U.S. back to drug trafficking to increase their profits.
“They are very fluid,” David LeValley, special agent in charge at the FBI’s Washington Field Office, told WJLA in July. “We have seen increased activity and that activity is mirrored by what they’re seeing in Central America.”
Washington, D.C., has the second largest Salvadorian community in the country behind Los Angeles at roughly 228,000 people.