(CNSNews.com) - Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, asked FBI Director Christopher Wray to update him on "gangs in our inner cities" at a hearing on Tuesday.
Well, certainly the FBI is spending a lot of our effort on gangs and in the inner cities. Not just MS-13, 18th Street gangs like that, that have a more national footprint, but also neighborhood gangs are--if you talk to police chiefs around this country, you will find that in a lot of cities, it's neighborhood gangs that are really terrorizing the communities.
And we view it as a threat that is unfortunately alive and well, and we are tackling it through a variety of different kinds of task forces, capacity building with state and locals.
"What's been the trend over the last 10 years?" Johnson asked.
Well, I think part of it is this--this trend towards the neighborhood gangs. You know, MS-13 has continued to become a major factor, but we also, like I said, are increasingly worried about neighborhood gangs.
We have found that when you, in a coordinated way, are strategic and prioritized in going after the threats in a lot of communities, what you will find is that if you prioritize, you will find that there is in effect, a tail wagging the dog.
And it varies from city to city, but in one city, it will be a particular neighborhood. In another city, it might even be a six block radius. In another place it might be a particular corridor or on the highway. In another place, it might be a particular group, you know, 20 or 30 people who are really driving the threat.
But there's almost always, with good intelligence analysis working together with our partners, you will find, again, that tail wagging the dog. And if you are disciplined in going after it, you can have a dramatic impact, sometimes quite quickly, that lasts.
Johnson, still not satisfied, asked Wray, "But are the number of gang members growing? Are the actions becoming more brutal? I mean, I read about things that are just horrific."
"Well, certainly MS-13 takes brutality to a whole other level," Wray said. "You know, violence there, as you know, Mr. Chairman, is essentially part of a right of passage to join and move up the ranks. And so there's a degree to which there's really almost violence for violence sake in the part of some of these gangs."
Johnson again: "But again, are the numbers growing or is it flat or--I'm just trying to get a feel for the trend here."
"I'm not sure I can give you the numbers of gang membership per se, but I'd be happy to have someone follow up with you and give you more detailed briefing on that," Wray said. "I know the violent crime rate has gone down some in the last year or two, even though not dramatically, it's gone in the right direction."