Two years ago, a suburban Maryland county began to see a dramatic rise in killings attributed to MS-13, an international gang with ties to Central America.
In response, the Montgomery County Police Department assigned Capt. Paul Liquorie, a 23-year veteran of the police force, to lead a centralized street gang unit dedicated to stomping out the violence.
In an interview with The Daily Signal, Liquorie, 49, director of the department’s Special Investigations Division, described law enforcement’s approach to combating MS-13 in this affluent county just outside Washington, D.C.
Since August 2015, Liquorie said, the county has suffered seven MS-13-related homicides.
“The Latino community where MS-13 has a presence is terrified,” Liquorie said.
The Trump administration repeatedly has invoked the threat of MS-13, making the gang a central focus of its effort to enforce immigration laws aggressively.
Liquorie, in a Q&A below, describes MS-13’s increasing “brutality and callousness” and how Montgomery County works with federal law enforcement to find and prosecute the gang’s members.
“Law enforcement won’t tolerate this,” Liquorie said of the violence and other crimes associated with MS-13.
The Daily Signal: How long has MS-13 been present in Montgomery County, and what’s different about their activity in the county now?
Liquorie: It always has been a priority because MS-13 has such a presence here in the county.
What we attribute to MS-13 is that since August of 2015, we’ve had seven MS-13-related homicides where we believe the perpetrators are MS-13 and two victims we believe were MS-13.
One of the things most alarming recently is the number of homicides, and the brutality and callousness by which they occur.
What I mean by that is the reasoning behind the violence may just be someone flashing a gang sign on the internet, or someone who may be believed to be a rival gang member.
The murders are not done in the sense of to gain greater territory or monetary benefits for the gang itself.
Another alarming thing is how [MS-13 leaders] try to get junior members to rise in status. To prove your loyalty in the gang, you will have to commit a homicide to get the full confidence of the gang in your abilities.
What we have seen regularly in recent years is just the brutality of the violence. People are lured into wooded areas, [and] usually stabbed with some sort of edged weapon multiple times.
The other thing we have seen change in recent years is they want anyone who is present to be actively involved in the violence.
Rather than one person stabbing the victim, and two others being there on the periphery, they want everybody to stab the body multiple times to say now we are all equally culpable and you will be less likely to snitch or make a deal with prosecutors because you were also involved.
You are just as culpable.
When someone is shot, there is a level of distance. To stab someone is a very personal act. You have to be up close to that person and be right with them as they are dying.