Criminal Justice professor publishes book on world’s most violent gang

March 10, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Buies Creek, N.C. - In 1997, the son of Honduran President Ricardo Maduro was kidnapped and murdered. Not long after, the Honduran authorities found a dismembered corpse, a chilling reminder that more people would die. Gang members executed 28 people, including seven children, on a public bus in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Ironically, the perpetrator of these horrific acts is a gang that began in the United States in the early 1980s, Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13.

In Campbell University Criminal Justice Professor Cynthia Starita's book, "The Mounting Threat of Domestic Terrorism: Al Qaeda and the Salvadoran Gang MS-13," the author conducts an intense study of the gang's involvement with and ability to aid terrorists. By providing operatives, funds, conventional weapons and weapons of mass destruction, the gang has become a much greater threat than many have suspected.

"The gang started in Los Angeles and consisted of a group of Salvadoran peasants trained as guerilla fighters in Central America," said Starita. "They quickly became known as one of the most violent gangs in the area, gaining a level of sophistication beyond that of their competition."

Because of their extreme violence, various members of the gang were soon arrested and deported back to El Salvador where they flourished, continuing to grow in the U.S. as well. Today, there is an MS-13 presence in 42 states by some accounts and as many as every state in the Union by others, Starita explained.

"They engage in organized crime and exploit our border security or lack there of," Starita said. "They are tactically capable of assisting not only Al Qaeda, but other terrorist groups as well. They'll do anything for money; they have no scruples."

Starita said her goal for the book was to establish a scholarly base for the study of MS-13, a foundation that gathers all of the information and evidence into one resource that scholars and law enforcement can use and build upon.

"I wanted to draw attention to the overall transnational strategy of the gang," she said. "What was published on MS-13 was mainly journalistic, this is the first time the gang's strategy has been looked at academically. I am very excited and grateful for this opportunity."

Dr. Cynthia L. Starita holds a bachelor's degree and a Master of Science in Biological Sciences with a minor in Forensic Science from The University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. She went on to earn a Master of Education in Secondary Education from William Carey University in Hattiesburg, Miss. and a Ph.D. in Administration of Justice from The University of Southern Mississippi. Starita has served as an assistant professor of Criminal Justice at Campbell University since August 2008. She teaches classes in terrorism and organized crime.

Published by LFB Scholarly Publications, "The Mounting Threat of Domestic Terrorism: Al Qaeda and the Salvadoran Gang MS-13," is scheduled to be released in July.