Gang recruiting is on an upswing in the D.C. region and kids in middle schools are frequently the targets, according to the Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force.
“It’s alarming to us,” Lanham said Thursday as a team of law enforcement officials discussed the gang-related murder of 15-year-old Damaris Alexandra Reyes-Rivas.
Reyes-Rivas’ mother told WUSA9 reporters she believes the notorious Salvadoran-based gang MS-13 is involved in her daughters murder.
Reyes-Rivas’ body was discovered in Springfield, Va. February 11th. Police announced Thursday that five suspects with gang links have been charged with directly participating in the abduction and murder. Another five teens have been charged with abduction and gang participation.
Police have video evidence of the murder, said Fairfax County Police Chief Ed Roessler, who declined to elaborate.
MS13 has a long history in the DC region. In recent years the gang has focused on extortion, according to FBI agent Kevin Donovan.
“These are crimes that are committed or dictated from outside the United States,” Donovan said.
A typical extortion scheme would involve gang members in El Salvador threatening or abducting someone in that country who has relatives living and working in the D.C. region. Affiliated members in the Capital region then demand payment from from the victims’ families in the U.S.
Reyes-Rivas’ mother said her daughter began to run away from Gaithersburg, Md. home after becoming acquainted with gang-affiliated friends in Virginia. Many of her relationships happened on Facebook, her mother said.
MS-13 members are well known for exploiting runaway girls by first offering support and security but then selling the girls for sex. Authorities have not said that is what happened to Reyes-Rivas.
Fairfax County police learned of Reyes-Rivas’ murder while investigating the killing of a 21-year-old suspected gang member whose body was found in Dumfries, Va. in January.
At least two other teenaged girls had gone missing at the time, but eventually resurfaced.
Reyes-Rivas may have been dating the victim of the first murder, her mother said.