Northern VA gang task force officials: Gangs recruiting younger and faster

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WASHINGTON -- Gangs in the District, Maryland, and Virginia, are recruiting kids earlier and faster than ever before, according to officials.

“We are seeing a lot of increase in high schools and middle schools which is alarming to us,” Jay Lanham, Director of the Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force said.

Lanham explained gangs are targeting certain children and teens. “The are preying on those that are vulnerable, looking for security or what they think will be a better way of life.”

In early February, 15 year old Damaris Alexandra Rivas, was found dead in the woods in Fairfax.

DCW50 talked with her mom just days after the 15 year old’s body was found.  The grieving mother told DCW50, Rivas had been threatened by MS13, and it all started with her friends from school.

FBI officials said local gang ties run deep, some even stemming from gangs in El Salvador.

Local parents told DCW50 they were concerned and said they were paying close attention.

“I have a 12 year old daughter, so I’m always alert.  Whether it is me going with her to the bus stop, or me telling her about her friends or you know her surroundings,” expressed Mariam Mulapi.

Lanham emphasized the importance of parents checking social media, and knowing who and where their children were socializing.

At the same time, officials said there are gang task forces locally and federal agencies in Central America working to crack down on the problem.