CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — There was chilling and heartwrenching testimony before lawmakers about the MS-13 gang problem on Long Island.
The hearing focused on shutting down the MS-13 pipe line was held at the federal courthouse in Central Islip.
As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, lawmakers heard from a top FBI official and the parents of two murdered teenage girls.
“MS-13 is a murder gang guilty of the worst savagery imaginable; the type of murders and mutilations that they carry out are just absolutely horrible,” Rep. Peter King said.
MS-13 is allegedly responsible for at least 17 homicides in Suffolk County since January 2016, including the murders of 16-year-old Kayla Cuevas and 15-year-old Nisa Mickens whose bodies were found not far from their Brentwood school in September.
“We are a family that used to go out on the weekends, take the kids to the park, go to church, be with other families, with friends, with their kids. You don’t see that anymore,” Kayla’s mother, Evelyn Rodriguez, said. “You see people staying home now, holding their kids tight. Kids are going to school afraid because they’re being targeted and bullied as my daughter was.”
Kayla’s mother said her daughter was targeted and threatened for two years.
“The school did nothing for my daughter, absolutely nothing. if a child comes up to you with a concern take it serious, don’t put it to the side,” she said.
The House Subcommittee field hearing was called by King amid a the drastic spike in gang violence in Suffolk County.
“Out and out savage murders, for no reason at all other than to prove a point, because someone looked at someone the wrong way,” King said.
King said gang tyranny is turning immigrant communities into a killing field.
“Those tragic murders really have galvanized federal, state, and local to really intensive efforts,” he said.
Long Island’s top cops along with FBI and ICE laid out the troubling local landscape.
There are 1,100 known MS-13 gang members and 5,000 unaccompanied children flooding schools without notification.
“It’s not fair to Suffolk County to take in 4,500 UACs, some of the most vulnerable individuals, without any federal funding. if we don’t provide that support to these children MS-13 will,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner, Timothy Sini said.
Homeland Security Special Agent in Charge Angel M. Melendez said they’re watching schools in areas like Brentwood.
“Schools have become ground zero for MS-13 recruit, children may face retribution from the gang for refusing to join, rapidly they transform into a lethal MS-13 gang members that they once feared,” Melendez said.
William Sweeney, assistant director of the FBI’s New York field office, said in recent months interjecting state police has helped at the local level.
“We’ve also enhanced our relationship with the Suffolk County police department to include our mutual agreement that all MS-13 homicide investigations in Suffolk County will be investigated jointly by the task force,” Sweeney said.
The hearing comes days after 41 accused MS-13 members were indicted on conspiracy charges.
In total Suffolk County said they’ve made more than 200 arrests regarding MS-13 members since last September.
King said the hearing was intended to focus the national spotlight and reassure communities that it’s critical they report what they know instead of living in fear. He plans to make the case in Washington for more federal funding for gang prevention programs, federal prosecutors, and better follow-up of unaccompanied children.