Feds encounter Latin gang members in N.O. area: A Crimetracker Investigation

Feds encounter Latin gang members in N.O. area: A Crimetracker Investigation

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Federal authorities said they are encountering higher level "Latin" gang members in the New Orleans area.

Bloodshed on New Orleans streets is not an uncommon sight. A lot of it is blamed on feuding members of criminal gang, but not all are home grown.

"There are Latino gangs in the New Orleans area," said Bryan Cox, spokesman for ICE/Homeland Security Investigations.

And many Latino gang members are playing an international game.

"Some of the gangs that we have encountered and continue to see active, specifically on the Latin side, would be gangs such as MS13, the Surenos, those are the most prevalent I would say," Cox stated.

"Drug trafficking is like a cancer, you have to attack it with all the resources that you have," said Special Agent Debbie Webber with the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The feds are battling the smuggling drugs and weapons into the U.S.

"They may be coming from Mexico, or the cartels to recruit people across the borders and it's all fueled by greed, money.... money is the motivator," said Agent Webber.

In the New Orleans area, there is a huge demand for heroin, and there is also an influx of cocaine.

"Heroin is a major problem right now that's coming from the Mexican cartels," said Webber.

Clearly some other major cities along the border have a greater presence of such gang members. Still, they are on the ground here, more so just outside the New Orleans city limits.

"Most of the international gang activity that we see in the area in very broad terms is loosely defined," said Cox. "There's some in Jefferson Parish, some in the Metairie and the Kenner area."

He said as federal agencies, they tend to focus on bigger fish involved in smuggling activities.

"And so really higher level criminal activity than you see at the domestic level," said Cox.

The gangs coming from other countries are blamed for some of the violence along the border.

"There's a toxic relationship between the larger Mexican cartels," said Webber. "They have their foot soldiers smuggling the drugs into the country and it trickles down to the local drug traffickers who are often in local street, criminal gangs."

The DEA in New Orleans said, it made 632 arrests in the past year that involved an international origin relating to the drug trafficking activity. Approximately 20 of the arrestees were involved in some type of gang, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

"Last year we had about a dozen cases where international criminal gang members have been arrested by ICE/ Homeland Security Investigations, that would be in addition to domestic gang activity," said Cox.

And ICE said certainly there are people affiliated with international gangs from other parts of the world.

"There are eastern European gangs, Russian gangs, people of that nature," said Cox.

And Cox and Webber said no matter where drug traffickers hail from, the goal is to catch them and not allow them to become entrenched in this area.

"These are criminal gangs, are they violent? Yes, do they pose a threat? Sure. Is it something that people should necessarily be more concerned about than other areas? Not necessarily," said Cox.

We reached out to local law enforcement in Orleans and Jefferson Parish for comment, but so there has been no response.

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