DPS warns parents:I agree drug cartel violence is a big problem; I'm particularly concerned that nobody seems to have a plan for what to do about Ciudad Juarez, which has devolved into an anarchic dystopia, awash in blood. Against that backdrop, though, it's odd for DPS to highlight the two cases of teen "hit men" which actually happened several years ago. The story came out in the press in April 2007 - see Grits coverage - back when now-DPS director McCraw was the governor's homeland security chief.
Mexican cartels and gangs recruiting in Texas schools
The Texas Department of Public Safety is warning parents across the state to be aware of efforts by Mexican cartels and transnational gangs to recruit Texas youth in our schools and communities. These violent organizations are luring teens with the prospect of cars, money and notoriety, promising them if they get caught, they will receive a minimal sentence.
The Mexican cartels constantly seek new ways to smuggle drugs and humans into Texas are now using state based gangs and our youth to support their operations on both sides of the border.
For example, Laredo natives Gabriel Cardona and Rosalio Reta were recruited in their teens to be hit men for the Zetas. The Zetas, composed primarily of former Mexican military commandos, originally served as the enforcement arm of the Gulf Cartel, but have since become their own cartel. El Paso teens have been recruited to smuggle drugs across the border, many with the packs taped to their bodies.
While such recruitment is growing across Texas, juveniles along the Texas-Mexico border are particularly susceptible. In 2008, young people from the counties along the Texas-Mexico border accounted for just 9 percent of the population in Texas, but 18 percent of the felony drug charges and gang-related arrests.
“As these dangerous organizations seek to co-opt our children to support their criminal operations, it is more important than ever that parents be aware of these risks, talk to their children and pay attention to any signs that they may have become involved in illegal activities,” said Steven C. McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
To protect our communities and our children from these powerful and ruthless criminal organizations, local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and the District Attorneys in Texas border counties are working together to detect, disrupt and deter Mexican cartel-related crime along the Texas-Mexico border.
One supposes that kids most likely to be recruited by drug gangs will be neglected, dispossessed, and impoverished - i.e., youth whose parents aren't likely to read or respond to a DPS press release. Further, it follows that such recruits will likely number among the many thousands of Texas high school dropouts, not in "schools," as the press release headline suggests. These criminal smuggling organizations feed off the misery and fear of others, including the children they recruit, so the cartels benefit from a robust labor pool whenever a large, poor, uneducated underclass exists. That group of youth, not those in school with attentive parents, are the ones likely to be trained and recruited by groups like Los Zetas.
In light of that distinction, one wonders if warning parents to talk to their children and pay attention for signs of illegal activities by kids will really help retard drug smuggling or cartel violence? It seems like a strange focus, though certainly from a political perspective you can never go wrong issuing calls to Protect the Children. But if DPS really wants the public's help disabling drug cartels, why not ask them to help identify corrupt public officials? Lord knows we've got our share of those, and average folks are more likely to turn them in than they are their own kids.
H/T: Dallas News Crime Blog
MORE (11/18): From the Texas Tribune, where Brandi Grissom came up with a better headline than mine: Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Smugglers.