NORTHERN VA (WUSA9) - Law enforcement officers fighting gangs in Northern Virginia are surprised the White House picked New York for an event on Friday.
The president is making a trip to Suffolk County, Long Island to address the Federal fight against one of the most violent transnational gangs, MS-13.
That part of New York as reportedly seen around 17 MS-13-related homicides in the past year-in-a-half.
RELATED: A look inside the world of MS-13
“For some odd reason,” New York is getting more attention than Northern Virginia, according to the Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force Director, Jay Lanham. He says when it comes to the East Coast, Northern Virginia is a MS-13 hub.
“We have the second largest population of MS-13 next to L.A. in the United States,” said Lanham on FaceTime Thursday evening.
In fact, just a few months ago, Lanham says the Capital Region only had maybe one or two less MS-13 murders than Suffolk County, Long Island.
Thursday the acting ICE Director reinforced the White House's stance in its fight against MS-13 one day before the president’s trip.
"Sanctuary Cities are criminals' biggest friend, said Director Thomas Homan, who also told reporters, “I've said it a million times, it's a crime to enter the country illegally…”
The president tweeted, “Big progress being made in ridding our country of MS-13 gang members and gang members in general. MAKE AMERICA SAFE AGAIN!’
Big progress being made in ridding our country of MS-13 gang members and gang members in general. MAKE AMERICA SAFE AGAIN!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 27, 2017
In Long Island, protesters referred to the president's MS-13 fight as a mask.
"To fuel hateful anti-immigrant agenda,” a man said at a Thursday anti-Trump rally.
Lanham would not comment on that front. What he does say is the task force needs federal funding to pay for things like officer training, intervention and prevention programs.
"We welcome the attention to the MS-13 fight," he said. “We've yet to see that trickle down in the form of help at the local level."
Several Congress members have gotten involved since last winter's high profile MS-13 murder cases.
Congresswoman Barbara Comstock recently introduced a bill that could help existing anti-gang task forces get federal money.
Director Homan mentioned two major MS-13 targeting operations in which one resulted in the arrest of 1,378 gang members and affiliates.
ICE included the breakdown of that number: 137 affiliated with the Bloods, 118 with the Sureños, 104 with MS-13, and 104 with the Crips. The remaining 283 claimed no gang affiliation but were arrested on either criminal or administrative charges.
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