Defining, identifying and tracking security threat groups.

Author:Newhouse, Ken

Which security threat groups (STGs) are being tracked in correctional facilities throughout the U.S.? Perhaps one facility has local street thugs trying to make a name for themselves, while another may be tracking illegal detainees and suspected terrorists. Some are looking at serious offenders who may have committed a capital crime or even attempted escape, and other facilities may not even be tracking groups or gangs. The climate in a correctional facility is ever-changing, but to give a clearer picture of the issues, facility staff should answer the following questions:

* Does the organization have a clear definition of an STG?

* Has the organization established a process to identify and track the STGs within the facility and the local area?

* Can the organization identify the members of STGs who are currently being housed?


During the process of answering these questions, staff will begin to establish a definition for STG; conceptualize a security intelligence unit; and describe how information and intelligence can be shared in order to have an impact on crime within a facility, community and region.

Defining Security Threat Group

Threat groups are more than just the current local gang committing crimes to obtain local or national news coverage. An STG can be any group, gang or inmate organization that poses a threat to the safety, security and orderly operation of the facility, its staff and/or public safety. Furthermore, these individuals may be considered predatory to the safety and health of other inmates. While this definition is not intended to be the sole definition, it can be used as a starting point.

Gangs in Northern Virginia and MS-13

In 2007, the Arlington County Detention Facility identified/validated 219 gang members, a 16 percent increase from the previous year. The facility had 33 different gangs represented in these figures, ranging from Asian Dragon Family and Nazi Low Riders to Voto Locos. Even with such a diverse gang population, the majority of incarcerated gang members continue to be MS-13 or Mara Salvatrucha. In fact, approximately 35 percent to 40 percent of the facility's gang population today is MS-13. This is a common theme throughout the Northern Virginia region.

This particular group is truly a culture within itself. It is an American-born gang that has gained worldwide recognition based on horrendous violent acts. It all starts when a "wannabe," or in their terms a "pica" (someone who hangs around the gang), needs to gain the respect of established gang members. These picas may be involved in a cal-en-tone--a beating that lasts 13 seconds. The cal-en-tone does not give the person a right to call him- or herself a full-fledged member; however, it does put the established gang members at ease about this...

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