California is the top target for international criminal gangs operating from Eastern Europe, Africa and China, according to a report released in Los Angeles today.
"Gangs Beyond Borders: California and the Fight Against Transnational Organized Crime" addresses the three emerging areas of international criminal activity: trafficking of drugs, weapons and human beings; money laundering; and high-tech crimes, such as digital piracy, hacking and fraud.
The report issued by Attorney General Kamala Harris analyzes how transnational gangs are growing and outlines ways to adapt to new challenges, including more strict laws, sustained funding for law enforcement to go after transnational criminals and collaboration between federal, state, local and international governments.
"The growth of transnational criminal organizations seriously threatens California's safety and economic well-being," Harris said. "State and local law enforcement officers are on the front lines of this fight every day. Our response must include sustained funding for their work and strong coordination at all levels of government."
Next week, Harris will lead a delegation of state attorneys general to Mexico to strengthen working relationships between the governments of both countries and enhance efforts to combat transnational crime.
The delegation will meet with Mexican state attorneys general and federal officials to discuss the issues of drug, human and firearms trafficking, money laundering and high-tech crime.
The report is a result of research and consultation with federal, state, and local law enforcement, non-governmental organizations and academia, she said.
Among the highlights:
- Mexico-based transnational criminal organizations traffic 70 percent of imported methamphetamine through the San Diego port of entry alone. California is the primary source of methamphetamine nationwide;
- The Sinaloa Cartel is the dominant Mexico-based drug trafficking organization operating in California and is responsible for most of the Mexico- produced marijuana, methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine that finds its way into the Golden State via Tijuana;
- Transnational criminal organizations are using new technologies like social media to facilitate criminal activity, recruitment, intimidation and harassment; and
- Breaches of computer networks by international criminal gangs have increased since 2009 and many originate from organizations based in China, Russia, Romania, and Nigeria, among other countries.
Last year, state drug task forces disrupted 140 drug, money laundering and gang organizations, arrested nearly 3,000 people, rescued 41 endangered children, confiscated 1,000 weapons and seized nearly $28.5 million in anti- narcotic law enforcement actions, the report states.
Along with trafficking in drugs, guns and people, criminals are also turning to cybercrime to target wealthy, advanced businesses and financial institutions in the state, Harris reported.
"California is a global leader on a number of fronts and, unfortunately, transnational criminal activity is one of them," the study said.
The AG's report recommended the state Legislature amend state law to target the leaders of transnational criminal organizations operating in California; federal, state, and local law enforcement should use the State Threat Assessment System as a central hub for sharing information about transnational crime; a unified maritime task force and associated radar network should be established to counter maritime smuggling operations along the state's coastline; and the legislature and governor should fund five additional Special Operations Units across California.
--City News Service