Officials in counties where the gang doesn't have a strong presence — including Anne Arundel, Carroll, Harford and Howard — say dozens of BGF members are nonetheless tracked. In the past five years, for example, Howard County police have identified 18 BGF members living in the county, but a police spokeswoman said they don't represent "an organized crime element" there.

Such numbers pale in comparison to reports in Baltimore, where 100 alleged members were found meeting in Druid Hill Park in 2009.

The recent federal indictment outlined a scheme involving smuggling drugs, cellphones and other contraband into the state-run city jail. Tavon White was the jailhouse leader of the BGF, according to the indictment unsealed in late April. He has pleaded not guilty to the federal charges; he is also awaiting trial on state charges related to a 2009 shooting.

Bradley Barthlow, 66, who retired from the city jail as a captain in 2007 after more than 30 years in the corrections system, said part of the problem is that corrections officers "don't want to snitch."

"Every person I ever talked to told me it was the supervisors' job to find the person who is doing wrong," he said.

Rick Binetti, a spokesman for the state corrections department, said efforts to identify gang-related corruption are elaborate and extensive at the city detention center. Richardson, the Baltimore County corrections director, said the same about efforts at the county jail.

Still, some question the immense amount of attention paid to BGF since the city jail indictment.

City Councilman Brandon Scott, vice chair of the council's public safety committee, said Batts is right to target gang activity, but the approach can't simply be a series of crackdowns with no follow-up initiatives.

"It creates a vacuum," he said of investigations that take down gang hierarchies. "If we're not prepared, as a neighborhood first but then as a city and state, to replace that vacuum with positive stuff, then the next group is going to come along."

Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton contributed to this article.