Texas gang activity: Six critical updates you should know

Vicent Ballard and Larry Smith, once on the Top 10 most wanted list, are now two Tango Blast Houston captured fugitives.

Tango Blast, Latin Kings, Texas Mexican Mafia and MS-13 most significant

This week NEWS LEGIT focuses on Texas gang activity

 

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The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) released a Texas Gang Threat Assessment, a few days ago which provides a broad overview and update of gang activity in Texas.
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“This report provides an overview of gangs operating in Texas, which gives law enforcement important information to help protect our communities from these violent organizations,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw. “Gangs and their associates remain a significant threat to public safety in our state, not only because of their penchant for violence and criminal activity, but also their relationships with other criminal organizations, such as Mexican cartels.”
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Penna Group, a Fort Worth, Texas company, proposes a double wire mesh fence that has a sheet of plexiglass lined with a one-way mirror allowing border patrol agents to see the Mexico side, but not the reverse. The fence would be 30 feet tall with a 6-foot footing, and both would be designed to sustain tampering by pickaxes, hammers, hand-tools, and torches for over an hour and a half. The double-lined, double-wire mesh design is often used in maximum-security prisons. (Credit: Michael Evangelista-Ysasaga, Penna Group)

The Texas Gang Threat Assessment is based on the collaboration between multiple law enforcement and criminal justice agencies across the state and nation, whose contributions were essential in creating this comprehensive overview of gang activity in Texas.

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This assessment details the state’s systematic approach to evaluating and classifying gangs in order to identify which organizations represent the most substantial threat.
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The six key analytic judgments of this assessment are:

  • Gangs remain a significant threat to public safety in Texas. Gangs in Texas continue their involvement in organized criminal activity throughout the state, committing violence and maintaining relationships with dangerous Transnational Criminal Organizations. We assess that as many as 100,000 gang members are in Texas.

 

  • The most significant gangs in Texas are Tango Blast and associated Tango cliques (estimated >19,000 members), Latin Kings (estimated >1,300 members), Texas Mexican Mafia (estimated >4,100 members), and Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) (estimated >500 members). These Tier 1 gangs pose the greatest gang threat potential based on their cartel relationships, high levels of transnational criminal activity, level of committed violence, and overall statewide strength and presence.

 

  • Robert Ramirez, a 17-year-old gang member, stabbed one person and picked up a vase to hit another as they were visiting Rose Hill Cemetery in Corpus Christi to pay respects to a buried friend. (Texas Gang Center)

    Violence is often inseparable from gang activity. Whether protecting criminal assets and territory, carrying out contractual obligations, initiating new members, or targeting other members, gang member violence places Texas citizens in harm’s way. More than half of all tierranked gang members incarcerated within Texas Department of Criminal Justice prisons are serving sentences for violent crimes, including robbery (23 percent), homicide (16 percent), assaultive offenses (14 percent), and sexual assault (6 percent).

 

  • Cartel and gang relationships remain steady. Mexican cartels and Texas gangs work together to distribute drugs throughout the state, smuggle illegal aliens across the border, and procure and move weapons to Mexico. Cartels sometimes reach out to gang members to commit violent crimes on both sides of the border. The relationships between certain gangs and cartels fluctuate based on cartel structures and cell alignments, gang alignment with specific cartels, threats or coercion, and familial ties. As long as illicit cross-border crimes are profitable, the relationship between cartels and gangs will continue.

 

  • Partnerships between gangs continue across the state. Law enforcement reporting throughout Texas shows members of different, and sometimes opposing, gangs will work together to fulfill common criminal objectives. These collaborations are frequently a result of familial and neighborhood ties, hybrid gang memberships, and temporary mutually beneficial agreements. In addition, some violent rivalries remain in place in Texas, mostly between street gangs in concentrated areas, such as the Texas Chicano Brotherhood and Tri-City Bombers in the Rio Grande Valley. Other examples include the rivalry between the Bandidos Outlaw Motorcycle Gang and Cossacks Motorcycle Club, which contributed to the May 2015 shooting in Waco that killed nine people. Their conflicts can result in the injury or death of innocent citizens, particularly during violent altercations in public, such as drive-by shootings.

 

  • Gang members actively use social media to communicate, boast, and recruit. The popularity of social media has not been lost on gang members, especially with younger generations. Gangs use social networking and video-sharing websites as platforms to brag, recruit, and antagonize rival gang members, while mobile messaging applications are used by gang members to communicate. These include encrypted messaging platforms whose use by gang members challenges law enforcement agencies’ ability to investigate and collect criminal intelligence information.

 

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