Criminal Justice Reform

Testimony Before the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice

Yesterday,  I joined the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice to testify regarding my Office’s work to combat MS-13 and the area of electronic investigation and surveillance with a focus on the ever-increasing problem of the use of encrypted applications and other devices to thwart law enforcement’s lawful efforts to collect reliable, real-time intelligence and evidence relating to criminal enterprises such as MS-13.

Suffolk District attorney Timothy Sini, left, and Suffolk

Suffolk District Attorney Timothy Sini and Suffolk Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart appear in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead.

Here in Suffolk County we have been on the forefront of developing innovative tactics and long term sustainable strategies to eradicate violent street gangs from our communities. We are now one of the nation’s leaders in the number of wiretaps completed and I’ve devoted an enormous amount of resources into our wiretapping infrastructure. I’ve also recruited top investigators with experience in electronic surveillance, invested heavily in training relating to electronic surveillance, and implemented a series of best practices governing how we conduct electronic surveillance. These efforts positioned my Office to conduct, in collaboration with the DEA and other law enforcement agencies, one of the largest MS-13 take downs in U.S. history involving wiretaps on approximately 215 phone lines and communication applications over the course of about two years. The amount of intelligence generated off those approximate 215 phones was enormous and led to the arrests of more than 330 MS-13 gang members and close associates worldwide. Notably, the intelligence generated off the wire led to the foiling of more than 10 murder plots on Long Island and the charging of 45 MS-13 gang members and 19 associates for murder conspiracy. The intelligence generated off the wire also led to the arrest of high-ranking MS-13 leaders and the solving of murders and other serious violent crimes throughout the world, including in the Northern Triangle. Remarkably, the intelligence and strategic arrests from the wire terminated the New York Program, which was created by the leadership of MS-13 in El Salvador to develop a greater presence on Long Island and further its objectives of violence and dominance.

I share the results of this wire-tap investigation to highlight the importance of electronic surveillance. But our ability to effectively conduct this type of surveillance is currently hampered by the use of encryption and other tools used to thwart law enforcement’s lawful efforts to obtain evidence of criminal wrongdoing. To assist in overcoming these obstacles, my recommendation to the President’s Commission was to develop strategies and propose laws to assist law enforcement agencies, particularly those at the local level, to overcome these issues and enable us to continue to effectively conduct long-term, wiretap investigations, which go a long way in eradicating criminal enterprises such as MS-13.

Below you’ll find my full remarks before the Commission. My testimony led to the Deputy Director of the FBI to contact my Office and schedule a follow-up meeting to discuss my recommendations.

It is your support that makes it possible for my office to do this incredibly important work.

Thank you,

Timothy D. Sini

District Attorney