Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Gov. Perry wants his own version of Clinton's COPS program ... to fight Los Zetas?

Readers may recall that in 2007, the Texas Legislature backed Governor Rick Perry's much-ballyhooed plan to give more than $100 million in pork barrel grants to border Sheriffs, splitting the funds equally (more than $6 million apiece) among sheriffs in the 16 counties along the border to pay for extra equipment and overtime for patrols.

Given that massive, recent state investment, I was surprised that no one in the mainstream media picked up on the fact that one of those Sheriffs recently was indicted and accused of working in cahoots with the Mexican Gulf Cartel(!), making him the second border Sheriff during Perry's tenure to face charges for assisting Mexican drug gangs, along with many other law enforcement agents.

Though the MSM hasn't yet linked Sheriff Guerra's indiscretions to his border security work or probed how he spent his grant money, I've already wondered how the Governor could justify extending this expensive pork program now that it turns out some of the money went to a Gulf Cartel operative. The cost is even harder to justify since there's no evidence it had any effect on border crime.

Clearly, though, the Governor thinks that giving millions in state border security money to an alleged Gulf Cartel flunky won't hurt his chances of re-upping the program, particularly if he sweetens the pot with grants for big-city PDs as well, reported the San Antonio Business Journal ("Gov. Perry allocates funds to help SAPD fight gangs," Oct. 29):
As part of his anti-gang strategy, Perry says he plans to ask the 2009 Texas Legislature for $110 million in sustained border security funding and another $24 million to combat transnational gang activity across the state.
As he previously did with funding for border sheriffs, Gov. Perry is using federal Byrne grant funds to initiate a small amount of funding to local police on his own authority. (This pot of money shrank significantly in recent years thanks to pressure by the Bush Administration; it once funded Texas' network of drug task forces before they were brought down by corruption scandals in Tulia, Hearne, and elsewhere.) Again from the SA Business Journal:

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has allocated nearly $560,000 to help the San Antonio Police Department target transnational gang activity.

The funding will come from the federal Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program and will be distributed by the Governor’s Criminal Justice Division.

Perry will allocate a total of $4 million in Criminal Justice Division grant money to Arlington, Austin, Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Garland, Houston, Irving, Laredo, McAllen and San Antonio. The funds will be used as overtime pay for officers who patrol hot spots of gang activity.

Is it just me, or is this is an odd shift in focus? The "gang" problems in San Antonio, for example, are scarcely (at least directly) related to "transnational" drug gangs like the Gulf Cartel who Perry's border security initiative targeted. And they're certainly not affiliated with "terrorists," which is how he originally sold the program. To hear the Governor's latest statement, it sounds more like he intends the money to simply supplement regular police patrols:

“No one has a better grasp of the situation on the ground than the peace officers who patrol our neighborhoods and tackle the challenges of law enforcement every day,” Perry says. “These officers are the key to our fight against transnational gangs, and Texas is committed to ensuring that they are well equipped to combat these organizations.”

Governor Perry is basically asking the Texas Legislature to give him his own version of President Bill Clinton's COPS program, which claimed to put 100,000 new local officers on the street nationwide. Indeed, Perry's proposal suffers from the identical failure as Clinton's COPS inititive: It wasn't the feds' job to fund local police officers, and it's not state government's, either.

I didn't like Governor Perry's border security plan because it focused on maximizing pork and minimizing accountability. But at least I understand that border security is a state-level priority and requires a statewide strategy and response. I do NOT think it's state government's role to pay for overtime for patrol officers at local, municipal police departments. Once they become dependent on state funding, it'll be nigh-on impossible to ever get them off the state teat.

MORE: WOAI Radio has more from Perry's comments, including:

Perry cited the threat from Mexico's Gulf drug cartel and criminal gangs like Barrio Azteca, MS-13, and the Mexican Mafia.

"The threat that is posed by these trans national gangs is very very real," Perry said. "These people don't hesitate to kill, to kidnap, to torture. as a means of eliminating their criminal competition, or, for that matter, terrorizing citizens into silence. Mexican drug cartels are using stolen vehicles, weapons, there is human cargo involved here."

Perry's initiative comes as the FBI in San Antonio issued what it calls a 'Joint Assessment Bulletin' to law enforcement agencies statewide, warning that the Gulf Cartel is attempting of gain control of major drug trafficking routes through Texas, including Interstate 35.

"We are talking about a very specific group called Los Zetas, which are a paramilitary drug trafficking group operating in Mexico, which have been known to conduct some activity in the United States," Special Agent Erik Vasys told 1200 WOAI's Michael Board today.

Los Zetas are mainly former Mexican Army special forces soldiers, many of whom have been trained by the United States, who are hired as 'enforcers' for the Gulf and Sinaloa drug cartels in northern Mexico.

Deputy U.S. Marshal James Benjamin in San Antonio says the incident that prompted the warning is the arrest of a major drug gang commander earlier this week near Tijuana.

"There will be some jockeying as to who will be in charge of that cartel, and we expect some renewed violence," Benjamin said.

Vasys says there is no specific threat from the Zetas.

"Law enforcement regularly receives raw intelligence, information from a variety of sources, which is put out in bulletin form to alert law enforcement to trends that they may see on a daily basis."

Vasys said Los Zetas are a 'significant problem in Mexico' and have 'the potential to pose a significant problem to law enforcement in Texas.'

Perry says his program is aimed at 'dismantling' Mexican gang activity in Texas.

I'll give the Governor this much credit: I'm glad he's finally started talking publicly about the biggest public safety threat on the southern border as opposed to demagoguing in campaign commercials about "terrorism," but I don't think that expanding a program with poor results to more jurisdictions is really the way to go.


Anonymous said...

Has there been any quantitative analysis comparing gang activity with mob and organized crime activity? I have a gut-check on this one that tells that if you get rid of all the gangs, you would only be scratching the surface of organized crime...

Anonymous said...

Gangs are organizations and are involved in organized crime.

If you got rid of all gangs (Bloods, Crips, Texas Syndicate, Mexican Mafia, Aryan Brotherhood, Latinos Pistoleros Hermindad, Mafia, Skinheads, Hamas, PLO, Al Quaeda, just to mention a few) you would be doing more than scratching the surface.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"If you got rid of all gangs would be doing more than scratching the surface"

And how do you "get rid" of them? Will paying for patrol officers' overtime do the trick?

Why don't we just "get rid" of all drugs while we're at it. Somebody oughtta pass a law. Wait ... they're already illegal? Whoops, so much for that strategy.

Anonymous said...

I'm not one of the Governor's biggest supporters. I voted for him the first term, not this past one.

With that being said, I do believe in this case the Governor........

(1) knows the federal government cannot be relied upon for border security and

(2) the Zeta, Sinaloas and Gulf cartels are a continuing threat to the safety and welfare of Texas citizens.

What should offend most Americans, but apparently does not, was the vote by Congress this past summer to send millions of American dollars to Mexican ($400 million) and Central American ($65 million) law enforcement, otherwise known as the Merida Initiative, when Texas border sheriff's remain outmanned and under equipped.

To add insult to injury, this money was attached to the last Iraq war appropiations bill. I still do not know what war appropriations has to do with financing foreign law enforcement, corrupt as it is.

Because one sheriff's went astray and a second is accused is not indicative of the vast number of good sheriff's and deputies who are on the front line each day trying to protect the citizens of this state, something that Washington will not or cannot do.

Miguel Larsen
Chief Deputy Retired 2008
Titus County, TX SO

Anonymous said...

So how do you propsoe to get rid of gangs? Make them legal like making drugs legal.

What's your strategy?

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness for overtime money!

175 arrested in crackdown on Mexico's notorious Gulf Cartel

09:39 AM CDT on Thursday, September 18, 2008
By JASON TRAHAN / The Dallas Morning News

An unprecedented international crackdown on Mexico's notorious Gulf Cartel has resulted in the arrests of 175 people this week – including 14 in Dallas – and garnered record-setting drug seizures.

In announcing "Project Reckoning" on Wednesday, federal officials also publicly acknowledged for the first time that the Gulf Cartel's international reach includes ties with Italian organized crime.

Among those swept up in the massive investigation is Uriel Palacios, who was named in one of two local drug indictments. The 22-year-old faces two murder charges after police say he killed a newlywed couple on Labor Day when he crashed into their vehicle in northeast Dallas while driving drunk as he fled police.

Another federal indictment targets three of the cartel's most-wanted leaders: Zeta chief Heriberto Lazcano-Lazcano, Jorge Eduardo Costilla-Sanchez and Ezequiel Cardenas-Guillen. All are thought to be hiding in Mexico.

The 15-month operation has resulted in multiple indictments across the U.S. In addition to those in Dallas, indictments were filed elsewhere in Texas and in New Mexico, Louisiana, Florida, North Carolina, New York and New Jersey.

Federal authorities hope that operation will cripple the Gulf Cartel. Justice Department officials say that the 507 Gulf Cartel members and associates arrested in the operation so far constitute about a third of the group's membership.

The cartel's lethal enforcement arm, the Zetas, has been known in recent years for brutal tactics – including beheadings and armed insurgencies against Mexican military – to control the lucrative Nuevo Laredo drug corridor.

Interstate 35 is the cartel's prime trafficking route, and Dallas is its key distribution point, authorities say. Cartel associates are believed to be responsible for several slayings in the Dallas area in recent years.

"This is the largest investigation against the distribution and possession of methamphetamine and cocaine in North Texas history," said Richard Roper, U.S. attorney in Dallas.

The two Dallas federal indictments charged 32 people with drug crimes. Of those, 22 were arrested this week in raids across North Texas. The others remain at large or are already in custody.

Locally, authorities seized 300 kilograms of cocaine, worth about $7.5 million; 400 pounds of methamphetamine, worth about $9 million; and $1 million in cash along with 20 weapons.

James Capra, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration in Dallas, said that the operation will "disrupt the Gulf Cartel not only here but across the U.S. and overseas in Italy and in other places in the European theater where we're still doing enforcement operations."

Federal agents pulled off an international coup in 2007 when they persuaded Mexico to extradite Mr. Cardenas-Guillen's brother, Osiel, the longtime Gulf Cartel leader, to face charges in the U.S. He will go on trial in Houston in March. Many authorities say the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas merged after his arrest.

Wednesday's announcement offers a rare glimpse at the Gulf Cartel's reach.

In addition to using Atlanta – where 43 arrests were made – as another major distribution point, the Mexican traffickers also operate in Colombia, Guatemala and Panama.

They also have contacts within the powerful but little-known Italian crime gang known as the 'Ndrangheta, officials confirmed Wednesday. Associates of the Italian group as well as Gulf Cartel members were indicted in New York as part of Project Reckoning.

Italian authorities arrested 10 group members there, U.S. officials said.

Garrison Courtney, DEA spokesman in Washington, said Wednesday's announcement about the Gulf Cartel's efforts overseas is a first.

"We've had a lot of intelligence that has shown us their reach, but I don't think we've ever said publicly until now that there's a direct connection to the Italians," Mr. Courtney said.

The 'Ndrangheta has surpassed the storied Sicilian mafia and is among the most ruthless organized crime gangs operating in Europe, officials say. It is responsible for more than half the cocaine coming into Italy and has distribution chains throughout Europe, Mr. Courtney said.

A weak dollar is responsible for the Gulf Cartel going global, Mr. Courtney said.

"These guys are entrepreneurs," he said. "That's why they were using the U.S. to launder their money. It was strong. But they've opened a new market. Europe has a strong and vibrant economy."

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"What's your strategy?"

As discussed on Grits many times, I think new border security money should go first to combat corruption in law enforcement. Beyond that, more investigative resources are needed for targeting drug trafficking organizations, not petty street enforcement. It doesn't help to throw money at overtime when a single bad cop can wave through truckloads of drugs or cover up for cartel activities without anyone paying attention.

Anonymous said...

Street enforcement is not petty. You start at the street level and work your way up.

Local problems are nickel and dime neighborhood street dealers and guns, not Miami Vice scenarios.

I don't know how you combat police misconduct other than to prosecute them.

When you talk about corruption in law enforcement, are you just talking about the police or are you including prosecuting attorneys, district judges, defense attorneys, probation officers, tdcj guards, etc?

Anonymous said...

Just to keep the scales balanced, remember corruption exists on both sides, although I think it might be a on a different scale in Mexico. None the less, one corript US official is one too many.

The Merida Initiative was wrong.

12:00 AM CDT on Tuesday, October 28, 2008

• A top Mexican immigration official with 169 pounds of marijuana in his pickup was arrested Monday, a U.S. law enforcement official said. Francisco Celaya-Carrillo was in uniform when he crossed the border in Lukeville, Ariz., said a law enforcement official, who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to discuss the case.

12:00 AM CDT on Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times

MEXICO CITY – In a damning blow to its fight against drug traffickers, the Mexican government Monday acknowledged the infiltration of a top law-enforcement agency by a drug gang that might have bought intelligence on U.S. operations from renegade employees.

At least 35 officials and agents from an elite unit within the federal attorney general's office have been fired or arrested since July.

The officials, including a senior intelligence director, are believed to have been leaking sensitive information to the very traffickers they were investigating for as long as four years, prosecutors said.

In exchange, prosecutors said, the government officials received monthly payments of $150,000 to $450,000 each from the Beltran-Leyva cartel, a drug gang engaged in a bloody fight with rivals for domination of the Sinaloa region's drug trade.

The accused officials were members of the agency, known by its initials in Spanish, SIEDO, in charge of probing drug and weapons smuggling as well as kidnapping and terrorism. The case, which represents an unusually serious breach of Mexican security, was launched after an informer with the code name "Felipe" turned himself in at the Mexican Embassy in Washington. He revealed the names of senior SIEDO officials on the cartel's payroll and was quickly put into a U.S. witness-protection program, according to sources in the attorney general's office.

"Felipe" told Mexican investigators he had worked for Interpol and then for the U.S. Embassy in Mexico where he relayed information to members of the Beltran-Leyva gang, according to several Mexican media reports.

The embassy declined comment.

"They handed over secret information and details of operations against the Beltran-Leyva criminal organization," Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora said.

Five officials are likely to face serious charges, including illegal release of classified information, a spokesman said. They include Fernando Rivera Hernandez, a senior director of intelligence, and Miguel Colorado Gonzalez, SIEDO's general technical coordinator, both arrested in August.

Mr. Gonzalez was also named in a U.S. federal indictment Friday, accused of criminal association in the production and distribution of cocaine in the U.S.

The three others are federal agents, one of whom is a fugitive, prosecutors said.

Tracy Wilkinson,

Los Angeles Times

Anonymous said...

Mexican drug gangs have some respect for Texas prison gangs that run our streets and control the drug market in Texas, and that is not to violate their turf. While there's some disrespect from the cartels, Texas prison gangs will continue to control the drug market here. The HPL, MM, BA, ABT, AC and the TS won't spoil a good thing despite intra-rivalry. Money is better spent shoring up our own intelligence on Texas gangs. The problem is, there's been terrible cooperation between the feds and state and local LE.


Gritsforbreakfast said...

"Street enforcement is not petty."

Neither does it do a damn thing about Los Zetas. That's the disconnect.

As for where corruption lies, all of the above. You can't seal the border when gatekeepers are on the take. TDJO's on the right track that intelligence efforts are more important to fund than street patrols if the goal of the money is targeting Los Zetas.

Anonymous said...

It does not take money to fund intelligence information. It takes cooperation between the agencies.

Like TJDO, there has been terrible cooperation. Always has been.

I understand that street enforcement may not get you to the Zetas, it's not petty from the sense it has been shown that it does improve the quality of life issues that people in neighborhoods desperately long for.

Gangs dealing drugs in neighborhoods and commiting random drive by shootings are quality of life issues!

Anonymous said...

Th rest of the story..

October 29, 2008

AUSTIN - Gov. Rick Perry today allocated $500,000 to the Dallas Police Department and $225,000 each to the Arlington, Fort Worth, Garland and Irving police departments to help target transnational gang activity. These grants are awarded under the federal Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program and distributed by the Governor’s Criminal Justice Division (CJD).

“No one has a better grasp of the situation on the ground than the peace officers who patrol our neighborhoods and tackle the challenges of law enforcement every day,” Gov. Perry said. “These officers are the key to our fight against transnational gangs, and Texas is committed to ensuring that they are well equipped to combat these organizations.”

The governor will allocate a total of $4 million in CJD grant money to Arlington, Austin, Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Garland, Houston, Irving, Laredo, Mc Allen and San Antonio. The funds will be used as overtime pay for officers who patrol hot spots of gang activity.

As part of his gang strategy, Gov. Perry’s plans to ask the 2009 Legislature for continued border security funding, including $110 million in sustained border security funding as prescribed by the Border Security Council report’s findings of past successes under the strategy, as well as $24 million to combat transnational gang activity across the state.

Transnational gangs such as the Mexican Mafia, Texas Syndicate, Barrio Azteca and MS-13 operate in every region of the state and are involved in extortion, retail drug distribution, vehicle theft, child prostitution, money laundering and drive-by shootings. They recruit members from high schools and prisons and have become highly adaptive, increasingly using technology to thwart law enforcement efforts.

Gov. Perry’s gang initiative builds on the proven border security strategy of working with local law enforcement and increasing resources for surge operations, as well as providing resources for investigations and prosecutions. The initiative calls for a multi-jurisdictional gang strategy that includes:

Expanding the sharing of vital gang information at all levels of law enforcement across the state;
Centralizing gang intelligence;
Expanding effective local law enforcement gang operations in identified “hot spots”;
Increasing resources dedicated to multiagency criminal enterprise investigations targeting leadership of the most dangerous gangs;
Seeking enabling legislation to arm law enforcement with essential gang fighting tools; and
Expanding gang prevention efforts.
“Securing our international border is a federal responsibility, one that Washington has yet to fulfill,” Gov. Perry said. “As a result, the Texas Legislature took decisive action last session by providing the necessary funding to secure our border. I ask that they continue to support this critical effort to protect our communities and combat the escalating threat of gangs in Texas.”

Anonymous said...

Here's an interesting thought. Instead of paying overtime, how's about the state allows the different sheriff departments to HIRE more deputies, so that you don;t have 10 guys working 12 to 16 hours a day, you have 20 working 8 hours in two shifts.

Anonymous said...

Street enforcement does improve the quality of neighborhoods; however bottom up enforcement is not effective targeting higher levels of organizations.

And more cooperation is exactly what paralyzes the process.

There are different levels of sophistication of criminal organizations. That means there are different levels of needed enforcement besides bottom up; undercover; and traffic stops on large highways.

The last thing you want targeting a large sophisticated organization is an arrest.

Over the years, the federal level of investigation you want has been dumbed down to the point where they target street or mid level enforcement. This pile produces large numbers of arrests; and following the arrest there's an exaggerated press release that claims the organization has been "dismantled" and you're safer now than you were before. It's a creative writing assignment not an investigation and it's the product of joining forces; federally deputizing; and task forcing.

Federal, state, and local law enforcement were created for different reasons. Those reasons are now blurred and the only way to fix it is to untangle them; hold locals accountable for local enforcement; states accountable for state enforcement; and the feds accountable for federal; cross border; international enforcement.

Connect sharing information with overtime and money; not enforcement; and the pendulum of overenforcing drugs at the wrong levels with large amounts of money doesn't shift.

Anonymous said...

How can intelligence be the answer when intelligence agencies are already abusing American freedoms and getting away with it? What about the CIA "Donna Blue" incident recently?

Gangs are funded by drug sales. Legalization and regulation would cut the financial base out from under them. It would also attack the problem at higher levels of criminal organization. Then, just as DWI laws are enforced, so can drug usage laws be enforced.

Anonymous said...

Mexico's top federal police chief quits

05:17 PM CDT on Saturday, November 1, 2008
The Associated Press

MEXICO CITY (AP) – The top officer of Mexico's federal police force has quit amid allegations that drug gangs have infiltrated senior levels of crime-fighting agencies, according to a resignation statement posted Saturday.

Acting federal police Commissioner Gerardo Garay said he was stepping aside "to place myself at the orders of legal judicial authorities to clear up any accusation against me."

Garay did not say what accusations he was referring to, nor were federal officials available Saturday to comment on the resignation. But the newspaper Reform reported Saturday that prosecutors are looking into whether the federal police assigned to the Mexico City airport had aided drug traffickers.

A top operator of the Sinaloa drug cartel was arrested in Mexico City on Oct. 20 following a gunbattle with police, and prosecutors say the man was in charge of trafficking cocaine and methamphetamine through the capital's international airport.

Garay wrote in his letter "that during my time in the federal police, my conduct has always strictly adhered to professionalism, legality and efficiency."

Garay took over the post after the previous commissioner, Edgar Millan Gomez, was shot to death outside his home in May. Investigators have said that Millan Gomez's crackdown on drug trafficking at the airport may have led to his murder.

Last week, five officials in the federal attorney general's organized crime unit – which is separate from the federal police – were arrested for allegedly passing information to the Beltran Leyva drug cartel.

On Thursday, the Reforma newspaper reported that officials had found a list of soldiers who were allegedly being paid to work for the drug lord.

And on Friday, the Defense Department said four other officers and one enlisted man are under investigation for alleged links to one of the country's most powerful drug cartels.

The scandals are the most serious reported infiltration of anti-crime agencies since the 1997 arrest of Gen. Jesus Gutierrez Rebollo, then head of Mexico's anti-drug agency. Gutierrez Rebollo was later convicted of aiding drug lord Amado Carrillo Fuentes.

President Felipe Calderon has long acknowledged that corruption is a problem among the federal police and soldiers charged with leading Mexico's anti-drug campaign, but this week's announcements were nonetheless a major blow to his nationwide campaign to take back territory controlled by cartels.