A small arsenal of weaponry arrayed on tables at the Moakley Federal Courthouse in Boston last week was tangible proof of the violence permeating the North of Boston region, particularly Lawrence. There were pistols and revolvers, AR-15 style rifles and bullet proof vests. In all, 79 weapons were collected as part of an investigation known as “Operation Emerald Crush,” coordinated by federal agencies and local police for about two years.
Last week’s announcement revealed the arrests of 32 people, including two juveniles, on gun and drug-related charges. About half are reportedly members of the Trinitarios gang. Details of that criminal enterprise divulged last week are chilling, and they underscore the need for even more efforts — and resources — targeted at street violence, the illegal drug economy and the gangs working in our midst.
Among those unsettling details is the fact Trinitarios are recruiting kids. In an affidavit filed in federal court, FBI Special Agent Charles Simon listed a handful of shootings involving Trinitarios in Lawrence and Haverhill over the past couple of years, and he noted a growing number of members and affiliates are younger than 18. They are known as “Baby Trinis.” Police say older gang members are using teenagers to carry their weapons because, if caught, the penalties in juvenile court are more lenient.
Another concern is that this isn’t an isolated problem. The criminal activity of those targeted by this latest operation stretches into Lowell, New Hampshire, Vermont, even Indiana. Its focus may be in Lawrence, but the footprint pretty much covers the North of Boston region and stretches beyond.
And where the gang goes, violence follows. The FBI has noted in periodic reports on gang activity that members of the gang that was started in a New York City jail three decades ago bring with them armed robberies, carjackings, extortion and home invasions — not to mention the drug trade. FBI Special Agent in Charge Jospeh Bonavolanta said last week they as people are "hard-wired for violence.”
Following last week's announcement, police chiefs in Lawrence and Methuen talked about their close work with the FBI and U.S. attorney’s office. It's an encouraging sign of cooperation in light of such a serious threat. But the recent arrests of some members of the Trinitarios should also serve as an alarm — for elected leaders, school officials, the general public — of the enormous task ahead in addressing this issue