El Paso, TX

One of the Safest Cities in Texas is a Pathway For Drug Dealers

Tom Handy

The perfect storm was created for drug cartels and law enforcement.

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El Paso image created on Canva

In 2020, students, workers, tourists, and thousands of businesses were impacted by COVID-19 as crossing restrictions were imposed. Drug traffickers found a way to get the drugs across the border as they adapted to the restrictions.

Last year, El Paso was ranked as the fifth safest city among large cities in America. More than 100 miles of a border wall separates El Paso from Mexico. This along with 2,400 border patrol agents helps provide safety along the border.

Initially, drug trafficking was on hold as restrictions were put in place. Organized crime increased traffic as they used unpopulated areas that had little surveillance and no bridges.

The drug cartels created a new position as a person would act as the broker-dealer. This person worked outside of the structure of the cartel, and direct traffic for various groups and receive a percentage of the profits.

Kyle Williamson, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) special agent in charge of the El Paso sector said, “We know that the cartels continue to hone their capabilities”.

He added the DEA knew the drug movement slowed down but that the criminal groups adjusted to fit the changes.

Recently, the El Paso DEA said there was an influx of drugs coming in from Mexico as of three days ago.

As thousands of migrants head to the border, DEA is worried drugs may try to do the same.

Border teams are seeing drugs make its way across the border through backpacks, cars, and commercial shipments.

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El Paso image created on Canva

The attorney general for the northern part of Mexico, Jorge Nava, said when trafficking was limited across the border, drug operations increased along the Mexican side of the border. He was worried that addictions, homicides, and drug dealing would increase in Juarez, Mexico.

Large amounts of money were held on each side of the border when trafficking slowed down.

Americans who crossed into Mexico bought drugs for their personal use. They were not part of any criminal group.

Mexican prosecutors said with the emergence of the broker-dealers, they worked independently and were not part of an organized crime group.

In 2020, Mexican prosecutors reported a 55% increase in Americans arrested for drug crimes as compared to the year before. The Special Unit for Drug Crimes reported 19 more arrests than 2019 for a total of 68 Americans arrested.

The closure of the El Paso Jurez bridge affected drug operations for the first few months in March, April, and May.

By June, the DEA started to see a rise in drug trafficking and the rise started to surpass the total seizures in 2018 and 2019.

Williamson said, “This was not normal.”

The coronavirus created the perfect storm for drug traffickers and the Border Patrol. For fiscal year 2021 from October to February, border patrol reported seizing 7,108 pounds of cocaine, heroin, fentanyl, marijuana, and methamphetamine.

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El Paso image created on Canva

Guillermo Valenzuela, the operational director for Aliviane, an El Paso nonprofit offering addiction prevention and rehabilitation said, “The pandemic did affect people who were recovering from drug or alcohol addiction, because of stress, unemployment, and the crisis we are facing aggravate the situation and many relapse again.”

The El Paso director of the Victoria Center, Michael Jiménez, said that it was more difficult to help people with addictions.

He said, “Now they have to take a test, and between the moment they decide to ask for help and the moment they get the test, many people do not return. Now instead of receiving them directly, we have to refer them to another place to be reviewed.”
El Paso shares about 20 miles between its sister city in Mexico.

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