Saturday, October 29, 2011

Battle for the Border: Officer Says Cartels Starting to Retaliate on Law Enforcement

Reported by: Stephanie Bertini

WESLACO - It's been six years since CHANNEL 5 NEWS spoke with members of Los Zetas. Back then, they told us they were already in the United States and it was only going to get worse.

Now CHANNEL 5 NEWS is speaking with a law enforcement officer about how things have changed since 2006. The officer has asked we conceal his identity so the cartels or his peers can't find out. We're going to call him "Pete".

"There's people that wait to see when you leave work," he says.

"Pete" says his family would be in danger if his identity got out. He says the Cartel "halcones", or lookouts, are making life difficult.

He says they follow people to their homes. Now the cartels are starting to retaliate on law enforcement.

"There used to be an honor amongst thieves. The cartels used to say, and a lot of bad guys in Mexico would go by the concept that, if you have a problem with me, it's between us. You don't involve family. You don't involve anyone like that. Now times have changed, and that's out the window. They will do anything to get at you," says "Pete".

The cartels are doing more of their work on this side of the river. The Mexican government's crackdown is pushing criminal activity across the border. The money drives the drugs and vice versa.

"Pete" claims the desperation is driving the cartels to target police.

"Usually the criminal organizations have more money to throw around than we do, so they can hire people off the streets to get intelligence," he says.

That intelligence includes knowing where officers are and what they're doing.

"They could retaliate against your family, and it's very difficult," says "Pete".

"Pete" says he tries to focus on his work. But taking weapons and drugs off the street can bring more uncertainty.

"It's a big blow in someone's pocket. Sometimes they do retaliate with threats and stuff like that. You always have to be on your toes, and be aware of your surroundings. You always have to carry your weapon," he says.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS asked Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Trevino about the threats.

"I have not heard of any direct intimidation of any local police officer, or any of my deputies by any criminal group. I have not heard of any police officer being followed home by any criminal organization group," he says.

Several other police officers tell CHANNEL 5 NEWS the exact opposite. Some say they know the cartels are watching every step they take. But only "Pete" would go on camera. The others say it's too much of a risk. The threats, the intimidation, all follow the same logic. Either you work for the cartels for money or they'll scare you into working for them. It makes it easy for the cartels to buy U.S. law enforcement. CHANNEL 5 NEWS has learned confidential police information and equipment is being found alongside seized drug loads.
Police officers say that information is likely coming from inside the departments.

"Pete" says dirty cops who are lured by money are another thing that makes his job hard.

"They don't care about anything, not even the cities they are sworn to protect," he says.

He says it's hard for officers to even trust their own partners.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS found out small departments are the main targets for the cartels. Some officers say the police officers working both sides of the law have given the bad guys a foothold in the department.

"Pete" says the word has to come out.

"So the people know. Why hide something you know is there," he says.

And what's coming is dangerous.

"Pete's" own fear, love for his family, and for the people he's sworn to protect that made him speak out. He and the other officers who shared their experiences want you to know the battle for the border is something they are living minute by minute.


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