Indiana State University Newsroom

Conference on Central American gangs set for April 2-3

March 25, 2009

Three experts on gangs from Central America, including the MS-13 and 18th Street gangs, will be speaking during a two-day conference at Indiana State University on April 2-3.

"They are a growing presence in Indiana, especially MS-13," said David Polizzi, ISU assistant professor of criminal justice.

MS-13, also known as Mara Salvatrucha, and 18th Street are known as two of the most dangerous gangs in America, and are thought to have more than 10,000 members in the United States, Mexico and Central America.

The conference begins with Al Valdez, who retired as the gang unit supervisor from the Orange County (Calif.) District Attorney's Office and is an adjunct professor at the University of California at Irvine. He spent 28 years in law enforcement investigating narcotics and gangs through undercover field operations, multi-agency task forces and prosecutions.

At 9 a.m. April 2, Valdez will speak on "Latino Gangs in North America -- A History of Gangs in Southern California and the Rise of MS-13 and 18th." After his talk, an open forum is scheduled with Valdez; Carlos Ponce, director of the Center for Criminology and Police Sciences of the National Civil Police of El Salvador; and Rick Veach, who recently retired as warden of the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute.

After a lunch break, Ponce, an ISU alumnus, will speak on "MS-13 and 18th Street in El Salvador and Central America Policy Issues and Transnational Gang Activity." An open forum also will follow Ponce's talk.

At 9 a.m. April 3, Veach will speak on "Gangs in Correctional Institutions: Central American Gang Members in American Prisons."

The conference is open and free to the public. The conference will be held in Hulman Memorial Student Union Dede III.

"There will be interesting and informative discussion because we have so many different perspectives," Polizzi said.

Polizzi said the criminology and criminal justice department plans to make this conference a yearly event touching on different timely topics during the first week of April.

For additional information or to register, contact Polizzi at or 812-237-2192.


Writer: Jennifer Sicking, Indiana State University, assistant director of media relations, at or 812-237-7972.