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Since We Last Spoke: Gangs Strike Back

New twists on past stories.

By Julie Morse


Have California’s cities finally figured out a way to stop the epidemic they set loose on the world? (Photo: Sam Quinones)

Editor’s Note: A version of this story first appeared on on January 14, 2016, with the headline “Mexican Cartels Have Seized Control of the U.S. Drug Market.” This edited version was published in our May/June 2016 print issue.

For years, Sam Quinones chronicled the Los Angeles Police Department’s efforts to eradicate violent gangs from the city. As he wrote in our January/February 2015 issue, law enforcement tactics seemed to have paid off: Since 2008, gang-related crime had decreased by nearly 50 percent in the city. But despite the diminished visibility of criminal gangs in Southern California, Mexican gangs appear to be gaining ground nationwide. A new analysis from the Drug Enforcement Agency shows that seven Mexican transnational criminal organizations have seized control of the country’s cocaine, heroin, and marijuana markets. Mexican cartels deliver drugs to more cities in the United States than any other transnational gang, including those from Asia, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic.