The number of documented gang members in Austin has increased about 36 percent since 2010, and law enforcement officials say they are concerned about the connection to Mexican drug cartels.The local DEA agent in charge told the commission that "four [Mexican drug] cartels are active in Austin: the Gulf Cartel, La Familia Michoacana, the Beltrán-Leyva Cartel and the Los Zetas Cartel."
At a meeting Monday of the Austin Public Safety Commission, police Cmdr. Donald Baker said that by the Police Department's most current count, 2,657 people belong to 113 gangs in Austin.
The double-digit increase is reflected in a year-to-year comparison: There were 2,501 documented gang members in March of this year and 1,834 in March 2010. August 2010 figures were not immediately available, Baker said.
However, Baker, who oversees the department's organized crime units, cautioned that there may not be more gang members than in the past.
The documented gang members may be on the rise, he said, because law enforcement officials may be better identifying them.
It's hard to know what to make of these data without more context. If there are really 113 active criminal street gangs operating in Austin I'd be amazed. Likely a handful of bigger groups make up the bulk of the numbers. And in any event, both the form and function of gangs are evolving, an APD gang specialist told commissioners:
gangs today, including those in Austin, are less about turf wars and "red versus blue," and more about the sales of narcotics they get from Mexican cartels.To watch the presentation, see the "Channel 6 video" from the Austin Public Safety Commission's August 1 meeting, linked here, and go to agenda item four, parts one and two. MORE: From KVUE-TV.
"This is a different game," Baker said. "The cartels are bringing the dope in, and this is the distribution center. They're bringing in gangs for a narco-enterprise."