WATCH: Virginia reps call for funding to fight Beltway gang violence

Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock (R.) says a first-hand experience on a police ride-along reinforced her commitment to increasing funds for the northern Virginia regional gang task force.


Comstock detailed her experience on the ride-along to The Hill’s Molly K. Hooper, saying she recently witnessed the task force arrest four members of the notorious MS-13 gang, including a 22-year-old who had been deported from the U.S. multiple times.

“He had been arrested for murder in El Salvador, been in jail in El Salvador for murder, then came over the border here … deported twice … had violence here… yet here he was at 6 o’clock on a Friday night in our community,” Comstock said.

 Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), a fellow Northern Virginia lawmaker, explained that the funds for the task force dried up when the House GOP eliminated earmarks. 

“It got $3 million a year for eight to nine years, it did wonderful work, [and] actually helped deter gang violence and activity before it actually occurred,” Connolly told The Hill. 

“[It] created a level of intelligence and coordination that was really a model for country -- that funding spigot turned off after Republicans took control of congress in 2011.” 

Comstock this week introduced a bill, "Project Safe Neighborhoods Grant Program Authorization Act," that directs 20 percent of a $70 billion dollar authorization to “gang eradication [in] areas that have the highest gang concentration.”

The congresswoman, a former Justice Department official, said she recently spoke with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about the issue. 

“He was very in tune to the problem, so having worked with him when I was at Justice Department, I’m very happy to have a partner there,” Comstock said.  

Should efforts to add funding to the task force fail, Connolly believes lawmakers could appeal to Trump’s desire to tackle one of his key campaign promises: immigration reform.

“If the president wants bipartisan support for one piece of the immigration challenge it is this,” the Democrat said.