AUSTIN – The Texas Department of Public Safety is warning parents about drug cartels recruiting Texas high school students. DPS officials say they caught a 12-year-old boy driving a stolen pickup truck containing more than 800 pounds of marijuana last week.
Last month, two Texas teenagers were lured to Mexico where they were kidnapped, beaten, ransomed and released in a remote area along the Rio Grande River. In one Texas border county, more than 25 juveniles were arrested for drug trafficking within the past year.
“Mexican cartels have corrupted nearly an entire generation of youth living in Northern Mexico and they seek to corrupt our youth as well to further their smuggling operations,” said DPS Director Steven C. McCraw. “The Mexican Cartels value Texas teenagers for their ability to serve as expendable labor in many different roles and they have unlimited resources to recruit our children.”
The Texas border region represents 9.7 percent of the state’s population, yet the region has 19.2 percent of the state’s juvenile felony drug referrals and 21.8% of the state’s juvenile felony gang referrals.
According to DPS, six of the seven Mexican cartels have established command and control networks in Texas, and they are recruiting Texas students to support their drug, human, currency and weapon smuggling operations on both sides of the Texas-Mexico border.
The state agency warns cartels and their operatives are extremely violent, torturing and killing thousands of people in Mexico. They use transnational and Texas prison gangs to further their criminal operations in Mexico and the U.S.
DPS officials urge parents, especially those who live along the border, to talk to their children and explain how the cartels seek to exploit Texas teenagers and the risks involved in dealing with these ruthless organizations.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection developed Operation Detour, an educational campaign warning high school students of the consequences of becoming involved with smuggling. DPS kicked off the program at Valley View High School in Pharr.