BRENTWOOD, N.Y. (AP) — Late at night, when helicopters thrum overhead and spotlights beam down onto lawns, many people here know exactly what's going on.
"You just think, 'Oh, God, whose child is it now?'" said Stephanie Spezia, a longtime resident of this suburb in the heart of Long Island that's caught in the grip of a violent street gang with Central American ties, MS-13.
MS-13 has been blamed for a trail of 11 corpses of mostly young people discovered in woods and vacant lots in Brentwood and neighboring Central Islip since the start of the school year.
The bloodshed in the two blue-collar towns has gotten the attention of President Donald Trump, who says the killings are the result of lax immigration policies that let too many criminal "scum" slip through.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions gave a speech about the violence to law enforcement officials Friday not far from a park where the bodies of four young men were found this month bearing MS-13's hallmarks: repeated slashes from a blade that left the victims nearly unrecognizable.
Some parents say they are afraid to let their children go to school. Teens say any perceived slight to a gang member, especially a refusal to join, can mean death.
After one high school warned parents not to let their kids wear anything "gang-affiliated," gang members started deciding on a daily basis what colors were off-limits, leaving students to guess what not to wear.
"Kids are losing their childhoods," said Jennifer Suarez, whose 15-year-old niece was beaten and hacked to death in the street last year. "You can see the stress on their faces as they get ready. It's like, you know, they're suiting up for battle."
So how does a street gang with ties to Central America gain such an aggressive foothold in the suburbs of Long Island?
MS-13, or the Mara Salvatrucha, is believed by federal prosecutors to have thousands of members across the U.S., primarily immigrants from Central America. It has a stronghold in Los Angeles, where it emerged in the 1980s as a neighborhood street gang.
But its true rise began after members were deported back to El Salvador in the 1990s. There, the gang thrived and spread to Honduras. MS-13 and rival groups there now control entire towns, rape girls and young women, massacre students, bus drivers and merchants who refuse to pay extortion, and kill competitors or youths who simply refuse to join.
That violence has prompted a migration of people trying to escape, especially children, who have streamed north because of a U.S. policy allowing people under 18 who arrive without parents to stay in the country temporarily with relatives or friends.
Since the fall of 2013, the U.S. has placed 165,000 unaccompanied minors. Long Island has been a frequent landing spot. Suffolk County, which includes Brentwood and Central Islip, has gotten 4,500. Neighboring Nassau County has received 3,800.
Sessions, speaking at a courthouse in Central Islip on Friday, said he believes gang members used this system to come north, too.
"Bad guys know how the system works, and they have exploited it," he said.
In a recent roundup of 13 suspected MS-13 gang members accused of murder and other charges, seven had entered as unaccompanied minors.
"There's no question that MS-13 is recruiting these unaccompanied children," said Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy Sini. The youngsters "don't have an established social network, at least many of them don't, and MS-13 is providing that network."
"They're also using coercion," Sini said. "They say, 'If you don't join the gang, we will kill you.'"
All told, nearly 200 suspected MS-13 members have been rounded up since September. Among the tactics Sini has employed have been stepped-up patrols, renewed cooperation with an FBI task force and helicopter sweeps of wooded areas where gang members have been known to gather.
Trump has promised to eradicate the gang in the U.S. through strict enforcement of immigration law.
"We are putting MS-13 in jail and getting them the hell out of our country," he told The Associated Press this week. "They are a bad group, and somebody said they are as bad as al-Qaida, which is a hell of a reference. ... We are out in Long Island cleaning out the MS-13 scum."
The tough talk has made some residents fearful of law enforcement as well of the gang. They say it's not about immigration politics but about making a community safer.