ZAPATA COUNTY- There's a growing number of prison gang members in Zapata County. It's a problem that worries Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez., because once they get out of jail, many of them are going to work for drug cartels.
"We are seeing more more people getting involved in prison gangs for their protection and then it bleeds on to the streets when they get out of prison," said Gonzalez.
Once those prison gang members are released Gonzalez says they go directly the Mexican drug cartel, offering their services to move narcotics, humans and conduct all the cartel's hits on the U.S. side of the border. Making contact with certain gang members is how the Sheriff's Department became aware.
"I know we have been able to identify people in zapata county that are involved in smuggling humans and narcotics, and through intelligence or even through their own information they tell us that their working for the Mexican trafficking organizations," said Gonzalez.
The Sheriff says the reason why this organized crime is happening is because Mexican drug trafficking organizations do not want to cross into the U.S. to do the cartel's dirty work for fear of getting apprehended. Gonzalez says that the prison gang members usually conduct the cartels dirty work for them such as hits, assaults, extortion, abductions and carjackings. But the Sheriff says this type of crime doesn't stop at the border.
"The National Drug Intelligence center in 2008 identified 276 I believe cities in this nation that are infiltrated by these drugs trafficking organizations. The next year 2009 it was 1,276 cities identified having a big influence by Mexican drug trafficking organizations," said Gonzalez.
Money is what drives the prison gang members to take part in organized crime. Zapata Sheriff deputies along with State Troopers have hit the streets to locate gang members, identify them, question them and keep records of them. The sheriff says his deputies are more vigilant and hopes the crime in the making is stopped.
"They may tell us their working for certain gang members and that they are here to pick up, like it has happened before, a load of illegals aliens for human trafficking purposes or narcotics, so that's how we are able to detect them by getting intelligence...we want to make sure that doesn't happen here or anywhere else in our area," said Gonzalez.