New York state prioritizes gang prevention


In late October and early November, FBI agents, state troopers and Nassau County police began showing up at local parks and in secluded forests in central Nassau County — in the Roosevelt-Baldwin and Freeport-Merrick areas. Officials were there in search of bodies — and they found them.

More precisely, they found “human remains” — teenagers who had been hacked to death with machetes. Among those killed were two one-time Freeport High School students.

The notorious El Salvadoran gang MS-13 was likely responsible, authorities said. The killings sent a chill across the county. Central Nassau isn’t the kind of place where gangland killings are supposed to take place, or so we believed.

In our Nov. 9-15 editorial, we called on elected leaders to do more to ensure that after-school and community-policing programs are not cut in high-risk communities. On Sunday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo stepped up, saying that he would seek $11.5 million in state funding for more after-school, vocational-education and community-policing programs. We can only say, thank you, Governor!

There is little doubt in our minds that the best way to halt the scourge that is MS-13 is to keep young people from joining the gang in the first place. That means keeping kids off the streets and occupied in productive activities that give them a sense of self-worth — and that help them understand that their future lies in obtaining the best possible education. Art, music and sports are critical.

In last month’s editorial, we noted, “At the elementary, middle school and high school levels, it’s more difficult to spot members of [MS-13]. Yes, you read right. MS-13 members can be as young as elementary age, according to a recent Florida International University study, ‘The New Face of Street Gangs: The New Gang Phenomenon in El Salvador.’

“In so many cases, MS-13 members look like regular schoolchildren. But they’re not.

“MS-13 isn’t so much a gang as it is an international crime organization that targets children and middle-school students, most of Latin-American descent, for membership. According to Florida International University, 60 percent of members join before they turn 15 and 77 percent before they reach 17.”

Indeed, it will take all of us working together to defeat MS-13. It’s good to know the governor has our backs.