A new report released by the Texas Department of Public Safety reveals cartels are operating in Texas and are the No. 1 threat to the Lone Star State.
The Gulf Cartel, Los Zetas, La Familia Michoacana and the Beltran Leyva cartels' areas of approximate operations include Cameron and Hidalgo counties, according to the report.
"The threat to Texas is significant due to the prevalence of lucrative trafficking routes and smuggling networks throughout the state, as well as the state's proximity to cities and towns steeped in cartel violence and influence just across the border in Mexico," the report states, adding that Texas faces a full spectrum of "unique challenges to public safety and homeland security."
But cartels are at the top.
The report also notes that the Sinaloa Cartel might operate in Zapata County and, according to some reports, is working with the Gulf Cartel to eliminate the Zetas.
"These powerful and ruthless criminal organizations use military and terrorist tactics to battle each other and the government of Mexico for control over the lucrative U.S. drug and human smuggling markets," the report states. "The violence associated with this conflict has increased significantly since 2006. Some 60,000 lives have been lost, and cartel tactics in Mexico have escalated with the continued use of torture and beheading, improvised explosive devices, military-grade weapons such as grenades, and attacks against U.S. officials and diplomatic facilities."
And with thousands of Texans and Mexicans crossing the border daily to visit family or conduct business, the drug war has hit close to home for many residents on both sides of the Rio Grande.
"I just hope that the legislators know that until things settle down in Mexico we don't know how things are going to go," Brownsville Police Chief Orlando C. Rodriguez said. "We're just going to have to wait and see, but one thing that is important to me is the continued support we have with federal agencies and how we are sharing information."
The reality of cartel violence in Brownsville became publicly apparent as early as September 2010 in what had been dubbed the "FM 511 murders." Two men were found shot to death inside a gray Dodge Ram pickup that was riddled with bullets. The truck was found on FM 511, a few miles away from the Cameron County Sheriff's Department and the U.S. Border Patrol Station.
Police linked the killings to Mexican drug cartels. The suspects accused in the murders are still at large.
Rodriguez said it's not new or a surprise that cartels were named the No. 1 threat to Texas.
"This is nothing new, but one question is, 'Who is responsible?'" Rodriguez said. "It used to be one cartel and then the Zetas became involved when Mexico had its war on drugs -- they utilized other sources of income like human trafficking and extortion and what not, and so that's something that we are dealing with."
Rodriguez's statements are in line with the report's findings.
"The threat from Mexican cartels is particularly high due to the wide range of criminal activity in which they are engaged, both in Mexico and in Texas," the report states. "Cartel members and associates are involved in the cross-border trafficking of people, weapons, drugs, and currency. This involvement is either direct through the use of cartel members, or indirect through other affiliated criminal organizations paying fees to transit cartel territory."
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