Gangs, particularly in the District, have often been a problem inside the Beltway; but there’s been an upward trent of gang violence in one place where some say there really hasn’t been much problem before: Montgomery County, which borders D.C.
It’s become such a problem that experts will brief the Montgomery County Council on the growing problem of MS-13 gang activity in the area, later this week; which may include two recent murders in the county and one in Virginia — both are considered to be directly related to gang recruitment.
Just last week, Monsignor Mark Brennan stood outside of St. Martins of Tours Church in Gaithersburg with an estimated two dozen parishioners, pleading for peace, reconciliation, and an end of violence. Part of the violence they were referring to took the life of 22-year-old Roberto Gutierrez Cruz, who was gunned down early in the month in Montgomery Village.
Maryland state officials strongly believe Cruz’s murder is one of at least three recent killings connected to MS-13, and their desire to increase their membership in the D.C. metro region. They base their findings on reliable information where they’ve been told individuals who want to join the gang would have to commit acts of violence in order to join the group.
The situation in Maryland has unnerved some residents, like Micheal Deal. He posted on WAMU‘s website, “The Maryland chapter of MS-13 is also responsible for hits in Tennessee. It is time to realize that MS-13 is not a “youth gang” but is a foreign terrorist organization and to treat it and its members not as defendants but as foreign invaders and illegal combatants that have no rights to due process of the criminal justice system.”
komisarka, another reader, takes a more cynical view. “It’s all the fault of Montgomery County Public Schools and MCPS must solve the problem. How fun it must be to point the finger of blame at someone, something else.”
Crime and gang violence has long be responsible for D.C.’s changing demographics, geography, and criminal justice system, and that what bothers people like Deal and komisarka. They’re worried those changes will come to Montgomery County. During D.C.’s peak population of over 800,000 in 1950, it slowly began to fall into a downward spiral which many attribute to crime, drugs, and gang violence; and that led to a quarter of the 1950 population retreating to the suburbs. Some believe gangs were responsible for D.C.’s crack epidemic of the 80s and 90s, despite the U.S. capitol being the headquarters of the F.B.I., the D.E.A., and the national seat of government.