5 – Mara Salvatrucha
Also known as MS-13, Mara Salvatrucha is arguably the most dangerous gang in the United States at present and they are apparently the gang that the FBI is most worried about. While some American readers may know about MS-13 as they apparently operate in 42 states, the gang was relatively unknown outside of the Americas until recently. It was started in California when large groups of people from El Salvador fled the country during its civil war. Today, there is an estimated 70,000 members throughout Central and North America.
Many of the immigrants that arrived in the United States during the 1980s were used to violence as El Salvador is one of the world’s most dangerous places to live. As a consequence, many of the young men that arrived gravitated towards violence. When they arrived in Los Angeles, they encountered an established system of Latin gangs and were not welcome. To survive, they formed their own group and called themselves Mara (Central American term for Gang) Salvatrucha (Salva comes from El Salvador, and Trucha means ‘clever’).
As well as terrorizing people in the United States, MS-13 still has a heavy presence in El Salvador. Along with rivals Barrio 18, they have ensured that El Salvador is the world’s murder capital. While America is often deemed to have a high homicide rate compared to other Western nations, it pales in comparison to El Salvador where the murder rate is 22 times higher. There were 6,656 official murders in the nation in 2015 and in 2016; there was a homicide every hour in the first few months of the year. Bear in mind that the population of El Salvador is approximately 6.12 million.
In the United States, MS-13 is making its deadly mark. In October 2016, the gang is believed to have murdered up to 6 people in the Brentwood area of New York including two teenage girls. MS-13 worked with Mexican drug cartels regularly and is becoming ever more active in the United States. Gang members are prone to psychotically violent behavior. One infamous recent incident occurred when a member in San Francisco killed a man and his two sons for the ‘crime’ of briefly blocking his car.