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Gang summit ends with pledge of cooperation

Times Staff Writer

An international summit on transnational gangs wrapped up in Universal City on Friday with an agreement between U.S. and Latin American law enforcement leaders to begin crafting four initiatives, including one to improve intelligence sharing on criminals who move back and forth over borders.

Three other proposals to be discussed when the officials meet again in April in El Salvador include:

* Creating an international prevention campaign using sports celebrities and singers to urge kids to stay out of gangs.

* Developing an exchange program in which U.S. mid- and high-level law enforcement officials would be embedded in Central American and Mexican agencies and Latin American officials would spend time in the U.S.

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* Creating a “Top 20" fugitive program that would identify the worst of the worst transnational gang members so border guards could be on the lookout for them in all of the countries.

“We have arrested people here who were deported five times, so we want to put some of them on the list so we look harder at the border for the worst of the worst,” said Robert Loosle, special agent in charge of the criminal section of the FBI’s Los Angeles office.

More than 100 federal agents, police chiefs and prosecutors from the U.S. and law enforcement officials from Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Canada and El Salvador attended the three-day summit at the Universal City Hilton to discuss the problems that occur when hardened gang criminals enter the U.S. illegally and then are deported back to Latin America.

“There was agreement that we need to vary our way of sharing information with special operating mechanisms not only on the law enforcement side but also on the prevention piece,” said Rodrigo Avila-Aviles, director general of the El Salvador National Civil Police.

Officials from Interpol and the U.S. National Gang Intelligence Center provided expertise at the summit on ways to develop databases that can share information on gangs throughout the region.

Augusto Del Pino, deputy attorney general from the Mexican state of Chiapas, said the conference was important because it opened lines of communication and created relationships that can assist all of the nations.

“To me this was a very important summit because we were able to gather information, exchange it, and make a review of the system and judicial and police operations,” Del Pino said.

The group also discussed ways to alert Mexican authorities when a gang member in the U.S. adopts an alias that he then tries to use upon returning to Mexico.

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“We will be able to identify the people we have caught and we have in prison [when] they change names and pretend to be somebody else,” Del Pino said.

Also aiding the effort was the announcement this week by U.S. Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales that the federal government would accelerate implementation of the Central American Fingerprinting Exploitation system, which will help track gang members.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Police Chief William J. Bratton said they planned to travel to El Salvador in April to continue talks on ways to cooperate with their Central American counterparts.

“Many of the gangs that start here -- from 18th Street to MS to the Crips and the Bloods -- started here in Los Angeles, went across the country, and in the case of the first two have gone to Mexico, Latin America and beyond,” Villaraigosa said. “So we are coordinating our efforts.”

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patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com


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