AUSTIN (March 27, 2013)—Six of Mexico’s eight drug cartels pose the greatest organized crime threat to Central Texas and the state, according to a report released Wednesday that identifies and prioritizes public safety threats in seven categories including crime, terrorism, vehicle crashes, natural disasters, public health, industrial accidents and cyber threats.
The six cartels have command and control networks in the state, moving drugs and people into the United States, and transporting cash, weapons and stolen vehicles back to Mexico, the 75-Page 2013 "Texas Public Safety Threat Overview" says.
"The impact of cartel crime is painfully obvious when we look to our neighbors in Mexico, with some 60,000 deaths since 2006 and continued cases of brutal torture," said Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw.
"It is a top DPS priority to severely obstruct the range and power of Mexican drug organizations to affect the public safety of Texas citizens."
According to DPS, the State of Texas has seized naerly $7.9 million worth of drugs linked to Mexican cartels since 2006.
Marijuana seizures alone make up more than half of that number, totaling as much as nearly $5 million.
Former Texas Ranger Mark Leger, who battled gangs and organized crime throughout Texas for years, says Mexican drug cartels are a real and present threat to Central Texas.
"Sometimes, the general public doesn't have any idea that there are gangs operating in their cities and towns," Leger said.
"And that's what these guys want; they don't want any law enforcement attention. They operate in the darkness."
According to the report, McLennan and Bell Counties have high Mexican cartel gang activity, mainly because they’re centrally located along Interstate 35.
Leger was just introduced as a new criminal investigator for the McLennan County DA's office on Tuesday.
District Attorney Abel Reyna says Leger's previous work with gangs and organized crime will be an asset for his office.
"We might have a case that comes through and someone could look at it and say this is just a typical delivery of a drug case," Reyna said.
"With Mr. Leger's prior experience, we have an advantage where we can connect some cases to something bigger."
Mexican cartels thrive by networking, and Leger says the best way to battle back is by beating cartels at that game.
On his second day on the job, Leger was requested by Reyna to start coordinating a program with area law enforcement so that officers can be educated more on gang recognition and organized crime.
The report also identifies statewide prison gangs, criminal aliens and child traffickers as significant threats to public safety.
"Many gangs now work directly with the Mexican cartels, gaining substantial profits from drug and human trafficking. Prison gangs operate within and outside the prison system, and are responsible for a disproportionate amount of violent crime," the Department of Public Safety said.