July 28 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump traveled to Long Island, N.Y., Friday to speak on the government's plan to "destroy" the MS-13 gang and others like it.
The island in particular has faced an increase in violence related to the gang -- also known as Mara Salvatrucha -- in recent months. Local police said there have been 17 MS-13-linked murders in the past 18 months in Suffolk County, where Trump spoke.
"Together we're going to restore safety to our streets and peace to our communities and we're going to destroy the vile, criminal cartel MS-13 and many other gangs," Trump said while flanked by local and state police.
"Don't be too nice," he encouraged the officers.
"When you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just see them thrown in, rough, I said, please don't be too nice. Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you're protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over. Like, don't hit their head and they've just killed somebody. Don't hit their head. I said, you can take the hand away, okay?" Trump said.
Also attending the event were Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who earlier in the week traveled to El Salvador to speak with the government about the gang's presence there.
MS-13 was formed in the 1980s in Los Angeles among an influx of Salvadoran immigrants fleeing civil war in Central America. The United States deported some of the gang members back to El Salvador, where the gang took hold there, CNN reported.
Trump promised to protect the U.S. borders to keep criminal immigrants from entering the United States.
"We will find you, we will arrest you, we will jail you and we will deport you," Trump said.
Some immigrants and experts believe the Trump administration's strong anti-immigration stance is making MS-13 stronger. One undocumented immigrant, identified only as Margarita, told CNN immigrants may fear calling police about MS-13 because they fear being deported themselves.
"I think it's emboldening them, because this gives them the opportunity to tell immigrants, 'What are you gonna do? Are you going to report us? They're deporting other innocent people ... [so] they're going to associate you with us by you coming forward,'" said Walter Barrientos, Long Island coordinator with Make the Road, an immigrant advocacy group.