FACT CHECK: How Many Long Islanders Were Killed By MS-13 In The Last Year?
ThinkProgress Editor Aaron Rupar claimed that the street gang Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, hasn’t killed anyone on Long Island, New York, in over a year.
Long Island has experienced four deaths linked to MS-13 over the last 12 months.
President Donald Trump hosted a roundtable discussion on immigration Wednesday in which he decried the violence committed by MS-13 on Long Island. The area is home to 875 members of the gang, according to local law enforcement.
“They’re horrible people, by the way,” Trump said. “A ruthless gang that has violated our borders and transformed once peaceful neighborhoods into bloodstained killing fields.”
He praised local and federal efforts to arrest and deport suspected members of the gang.
“We’re not going to have this problem,” said Trump. “I essentially grew up on Long Island. And when I hear Hempstead and Mineola and all of the places that I know so well, that you can’t walk outside – this used to be where you’d leave your doors unlocked, you’d leave your windows open, always. And you have gang members now that are so rough, people are afraid to go outside.”
Rupar, who live-tweeted the event, took issue with Trump’s depiction of violence on Long Island. “There hasn’t been an MS-13 murder in the area for more than a year!” he wrote.
He made the claim after Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart commended her officers for successfully reducing MS-13-related crime. “There has not been an MS-13 murder in Suffolk County since April of 2017,” she said during the roundtable.
Rupar must have taken this to mean that there hasn’t been an MS-13 murder on all of Long Island in the last year. “After 45 minutes of fear-mongering about MS-13, a Long Island police official accidentally debunked Trump’s hysteria with a single stat,” he tweeted.
He even wrote an article about it.
Except Suffolk is only one of two counties in Long Island. The other, Nassau County, has experienced four murders at the hands of MS-13 since May 23, 2017, county police told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Victims often meet a similar fate – MS-13 lures them into the woods with the promise of drugs or women, and then brutally murders them with machetes, bats and chains. One of the victims, Angel Soler, was hacked to death in a wooded area of Roosevelt, Long Island in July.
Over in Suffolk County, four mutilated bodies were found in a Central Islip park in April 2017. The quadruple homicide, along with a spate of other killings, spurred Suffolk police to crack down on MS-13.
“These killings shook our communities and sparked a commitment among the Suffolk County Police Department to form a gang eradication strategy to protect our residents and get these MS-13 members off our streets,” said Hart.
Since September 2016, Suffolk police have arrested 235 MS-13 gang members.
Nassau County has also cracked down on the gang. This past June, police rounded up and indicted 41 suspected MS-13 members.
And in a significant takedown, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) nabbed Miguel Angel Corea Diaz, the alleged leader of the Long Island “Sailors” clique in January. “With today’s arraignment, we now have the highest-ranking MS-13 member on the East Coast in custody,” said Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas in April.
Although law enforcement has taken an aggressive stance toward MS-13, the gang still has a strong presence on Long Island. In retaliation for the arrest of Diaz, MS-13 threatened to assassinate police officers.
“Too many arrests. Time to take back the streets like we did in El Salvador,” MS-13 said, according to an informant.
There have been no murders linked to MS-13 thus far in 2018, yet such violence is a recent memory for neighborhoods that suffer from gang activity. MS-13 is believed to have killed 13 people on Long Island in 2016 and 12 people in 2017.
After the gang murdered two high school girls in September 2016, Evelyn Rodriguez, the mother of one of the victims, says the community was rattled. “Parents and community residents now live in fear and are afraid to let their kids play outside,” she said in written testimony to the House Committee on Homeland Security.
Crime doesn’t plague all parts of Long Island; in fact, Nassau and Suffolk Counties have some of the lowest violent crime rates in the state. But the gang has a strong presence in certain neighborhoods including Brentwood, Central Islip, Hempstead and Freeport.
“So, my community has no murders,” Rep. Peter King, who represents parts of Long Island, said at a House committee hearing on MS-13. “But if I was living 20 minutes away, I would be living in a high-crime area, certainly for the last several years.”
The violence and intimidation often play out at schools. Police foiled the kidnapping and murder of a Brentwood High School student in December. His fellow students, members of MS-13, were coercing him into a van when police made the arrests.
“The very violent activities of MS–13 have had a great and terrible impact on our schools, on our community and, most importantly, on our students,” Howard Koenig, superintendent of Central Islip Union Free School District, said in written testimony to Congress.
Rupar did not respond to a request for comment.