Drug wars: This isn't your mother's cartel
Modern cartels pose one of the biggest threats to law enforcement not just on the southern border, but nationwide
In the early 1980s when I was a young narcotics cop — and the first and only female in my unit — all we heard about were the Colombian drug cartels. It was every young narc’s fantasy to get the “big score” that would lead us straight to a Colombian connection. The cartels were famously ruthless, and it took many years and too much bloodshed for them to be dismantled in the late 1980s, but dismantled they were.
Nearly three decades later, the modern-day Mexican drug cartels pose one of the biggest threats to the safety of American law enforcement officers not just on our southern border, but throughout this nation. Recently, I was privileged to speak with crime analyst, author and cartel expert Sylvia Longmire about this complicated and dangerous situation.
First and foremost, Sylvia is truly a role model for any woman in law enforcement or the military. She is a medically retired Air Force captain and former Special Agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. She is an experienced investigator and has worked extensively in the fields of counterintelligence, counterespionage, and force protection. During her last assignment, she worked at HQ AFOSI as the Latin America desk officer, analyzing issues in the US Southern Command area of responsibility that might affect the security of deployed Air Force personnel. For over four years Sylvia worked as a senior intelligence analyst for the California state fusion center and the California Emergency Management Agency's Situational Awareness Unit, focusing almost exclusively on Mexican drug trafficking organizations and southwest border violence issues.
Not just a border issue
“Ninety percent of the illegal drugs consumed by Americans come from Mexico,” Sylvia told me. The drug trade in the US is almost entirely connected to the cartels, and it’s no longer just a “border” issue. The U.S. Justice Department's Drug Intelligence Center reported in April of 2011 that Mexican drug cartels were operating in 230 American cities. Longmire estimates that number could now be nearing 1000.
“If you make a traffic stop and you seize a bunch of dope, you’re going to have a cartel problem,” she said, “and someone is probably going to come looking for their dope.” In other words, that drug seizure of a lifetime for a patrol cop is could turn into a security issue for the local police department and maybe even for the community itself. Longmire recently completed her first book, "Cartel: The Coming Invasion of Mexico’s Drug Wars" to help bring this issue to the forefront, and it’s a must-read for every cop (and concerned citizen) in North America.
There are six or seven primary cartels operating the Mexican drug trade. Longmire cites the brutal drug-related torture and murder of four men in Shelby County, Alabama in August of 2008 and the November 2010, record-breaking methamphetamine seizure in Gwinnett County, GA as only two of countless examples of violent, high-level Mexican cartel criminal activity well north of the US/Mexican border. So what should the average street cop, detective, narc, and even dispatcher be aware of?
Cartels in your community: What to consider
After all, this issue is not just a “war on drugs” and should not be confused with the controversy surrounding illegal immigration. This is a war against the violence being inflicted upon our citizens, our children and on us, and it’s a war we must win!
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