PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Monday during a law enforcement conference in Philadelphia that taking down violent drug cartels is the focus of a new federal task force.
Sessions took the stage on Monday at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, addressing the International Association of Chiefs of Police about the Justice Department’s plan to combat international criminal gang MS-13.
“I am announcing today that I have designated MS-13 as a priority for our Organized Crime Task Forces,” said Sessions. “They all have one mission: to go after criminal gangs and drug traffickers at the highest levels.”
While the MS-13 motto is “kill, rape and control,” the attorney general says the Department of Justice has its own.
“Justice for victims, consequences for criminals,” said Sessions.
Sessions says they will use any and all law enforcement tools.
“And not just our drug laws, but everything from racketeering to our tax laws to our firearms laws,” he said.
As Sessions put it, “just like we took Al Capone off the stereets with our tax laws, we will use whatever laws we have to get MS-13 off our streets.”
“We intend to dismantle them,” said Sessions.
Officials estimate the gang has more than 40,000 members, including 10,000 in the US. The gang originated in immigrant U.S. communities, like Los Angeles, and entrenched itself in Central America when its leaders were deported.
“MS-13 is not really a major issue for us here in Philadelphia. But, we’re always monitoring that,” said Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross.
The attorney general also touched on the more than a $100 million in federal grant money that will soon be going to help local police departments around the country.
“They are putting money back in law enforcement that we haven’t seen, I’m looking forward to it,” said Bensalem Police Director Fred Harran. “We need more people who want to back law enforcement in this country.”
However, the Justice Department’s grant money will likely not back all police departments, especially ones in sanctuary cities like Philadelphia.
Sessions has had a strong stance against cities that provide any protection to undocumented immigrants.
“We have an obligation to protect everyone here and we are about building communities. That is our first priority, not about worrying about anybody’s immigration status. We have issues here with violent crime, but typically they don’t deal with people who are not documented,” said Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross.
Ross met with Sessions’ camp over the weekend, hoping to dissuade withholding federal dollars from his force.
“The jury is still out as to what will happen in Philadelphia and cities like Philadelphia,” said Ross.
Ross continued his comments by saying his department doesn’t need to be put in the political fray over sanctuary cities.
Like all departments, his could use more money for more officers to hopefully reduce crime.
Sessions did not bring up the subject of sanctuary cities and the Trump administration’s push to have Philadelphia notify federal immigration authorities when city police come into contact with undocumented immigrants.
The city is suing the DOJ over the disagreement on immigration enforcement policies.