Reliable data on gang crimes lacking

(The Center Square) – As the effects of the border crisis ripple throughout the nation, concern grows over increased transnational organized crime, in Pennsylvania and beyond.

Those subjective fears have been amplified in the wake of the Biden administration’s recent executive order granting a legal pathway to citizenship for spouses of U.S. residents and their children living in the country for a decade or more.

For many, lacking transparency and centralized data collection to accurately document crimes compounds the issue.

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel said during a June 3 news conference that there are “well over hundreds” of neighborhood gang sets operating in the city, which includes domestic groups.

In addition, the FBI has identified some 33,000 violent gangs that engage in criminal activities such as robbery and drug, gun, and human trafficking. And, they  say, Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, and 18th Street transnational gangs exist in almost every state.

Behind it all are the Sinaloa and Jalisco cartels that, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, operate in all 50 states and are responsible for worst drug crisis in the country’s history.

Critics argue existing data about the correlation between undocumented migration and rising crime is incomplete – sometimes by design. Other analysts argue that data shows that many criminal incidents have declined despite an influx of migrants relocated to sanctuary cities, like Philadelphia, from the southern border.

In 2022, the latest citywide Philadelphia Police Department data available, violent crimes – homicide, rape and aggravated assault – are down an average of just under 11% from the year prior, while robberies were up an average of 16%.

The report also shows that residential burglaries were down slightly, but property crime of other types rose an average of 28%.

The City Controller’s website says there have been 121 homicides this year to date – a 38% decrease from 2023.

John Fabbricatore, a U.S. Air Force veteran, retired ICE Field Office Director, and current congressional candidate in Colorado’s 6th District, told The Center Square that gangs will set up in communities with large concentrations of people from their home countries and begin committing crimes there, then move outward.

It becomes even more dangerous when established domestic gangs defend their territories, he said, resulting in turf wars.

Fabbricatore suspects the latest trend to hit the U.S. – South American Theft Groups, or SATGs, also known as “Tourist Burglars” – are not being categorized as gangs.

These organized criminal groups come primarily from Chile and other South American countries, entering the U.S. on tourist visas with the purpose of committing large-scale retail theft, robberies and home burglaries in affluent suburbs. They use a combination of Wi-Fi jammers, surveillance cameras, false identification, and rental cars to carry out their operations.

Most recently, organized crime groups were responsible for a number of burglaries in the commonwealth.

Abington Township Police reported there were 12 residential burglaries since 2021 in the Meadowbrook section tied to SATGs. Four men from Chile were arrested in connection to the crime.

As part of a multi-state and regional effort, Lower Merion Police announced in April they made numerous arrests of “traveling burglars” that targeted high-end homes in Bryn Mawr, Villanova, Newtown Square, Tredyffrin Township, Eastown Township, Willistown Township, Plymouth Township and Lower Merion. The suspects – from Chile, Argentina, and Peru – were apprehended and are connected to burglaries in other areas and states as well.

Fabbricatore said there is an uptick in crime, but sanctuary cities are not accurately reporting it. He believes the motivation is political but also business-related; officials, especially in tourist destinations, want to appear like they are doing a good job.

Obtaining data on crimes related to illegal immigration is difficult, he said, because many sanctuary jurisdictions do not record information on whether those arrested are present in the U.S. illegally.

Fabbricatore, in his recently published book ‘De-Iced: America in the Era of Open Borders and Unchecked Immigration,’ says the claims that sanctuary cities have low crime rates are based on a false premise. Crime is still rampant, but laws and definitions change to obscure what is really happening, he said.

In addition to fragmentary reporting, charges are pleaded down, and perpetrators are released on bond after being arrested.

If only 0.5 % of the 7 million migrants allowed into the country under the Biden administration were gang members or had criminal backgrounds, Fabbricatore said, that’s still 35,000 people. It does not include those on the terror watch list who have slipped through the cracks and up to 70,000 “special interest aliens” who come from countries that have ill will against the U.S.

“Every state is a border state right now, and every state is being affected by it,” said Fabbricatore.

A recent report by the Office of Inspector General states the Department of Homeland Security is not effectively vetting asylum seekers and noncitizens applying for admission into the U.S.

Requests for data and statements from multiple federal, state and local agencies for this article were unsuccessful.

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