Police have discovered a small number of Central American gang members in Grand Cayman and are asking the public for help in finding them.
Immigration Chief Franz Manderson told reporters Friday his department has identified four members of El Salvador’s and Honduras’ Mara Salvatrucha 13 and its Mara Dieciocho 18 rival. At least one member has been deported.
‘We have been working very closely with the police to detect these persons. There are four individuals actually here, and they have certain markings that led us to believe they are gang members,’ Mr. Manderson said.
He said none of them had been involved in criminal activity in Cayman and that all were here visiting family members.
He said police intelligence indicated more are present.
Acting Commissioner of Police Rudolph Dixon said gang markings were tattoos reading MS 13, MS 18, Roman numerals of the two numbers and sometimes slogans and wordings the gangs use.
The groups originally formed in Los Angeles in the early 1980s and com-prised only El Salvadorans. Last year they were named by US authorities as the most dangerous in the country. Members’ ages range between early teens and mid-30s.
Detective Inspector Robert Scotland, head of the RCIP’s Joint Intelligence Unit, said the rival groups are violent and close knit.
‘As they started to penetrate the inner city, they started to accept people of other nationalities,’ he said, describing how Hondurans came to form a significant membership.
‘We are taking this opportunity to alert the public about these, and are talking to contractors and construction companies so they can identify them. If they have any members in their employ, we are anxious to talk to them,’ Mr. Dixon said.
Mr. Manderson said Customs, Immigration and the RCIP were concentrating on intercepting any MS 13 or MS 18 members attempting to enter Cayman, while visitor visas would be issued only after background checks cleared the applicants.
‘We have closed our visa office in Tegucigalpa and moved it to Guatemala,’ said Assistant Commissioner of Immigration Dennis Brady. ‘We are taking steps to authenticate who has a conviction. It gives us a better opportunity to decide who should get a visa.’
Mr. Manderson said border police had been alerted.
‘We need to educate ourselves better … and we are educating officers at the airport and in Customs so we can become aware. All the law-enforcement agencies are working together,’ he said.
Mr. Manderson and Mr. Dixon emphasised that the Honduran community is not under suspicion.
‘Historically, Cayman and Honduras have strong ties and the Hondurans do not want their reputation soiled by a few individuals. They want a peaceful Cayman too,’ Mr. Dixon said.
More than 1,000 Hondurans hold work permits in Cayman.
‘We are doing enquiries with the Spanish community, and they are helping with identification of any one affiliated with gangs,’ he said.
‘Because of the laws in Honduras, these people are not here to sow the seeds of a criminal organisation,’ said Mr. Scotland. ‘They are hiding out from authorities, so starting something is not in their best interests.
‘These gang members are not hanging together, and we do not have a gang problem,’ he said.
Still, law enforcers are exercising caution.
‘One of the kids I spoke to admitted his association with the gangs and that he had a previous offence. This gave me good reason to revoke his stay,’ Mr. Manderson said.
A plea was made to the public.
‘If you have any information, not just when a crime has been committed, but perhaps you know a crime will be committed, or if you have any information or suspect gang members at all, please call us on Crime Stoppers, at 800-TIPS,’ Mr. Scotland said.