NPR Story
11:21 am
Mon April 1, 2013

Mexico's Cartels Traveling Beyond Border, Into American Heartland

Mexican drug cartels are sending operatives beyond the border and into the American heartland, the Associated Press reports.

The groups have begun deploying agents from their inner circles to the U.S. Cartel operatives are suspected of running drug-distribution networks in at least nine non-border states, often in middle-class suburbs in the Midwest, South and Northeast.

Cartels aim to undercut the middleman that traditionally transport and distribute drugs within the United States.

Taking stats from the DEA, the AP found that in three years, cartel presence reported in neighborhoods has increased 421 percent — from 230 in 2008 to 1,200 in 2011 (part of the large increase is due to “better reporting”).

One of the more interesting facts from the article was how officials in Chicago are combating the cartels, sounding more like the TV show The Wire than reality:

To help fight the syndicates, Chicago recently opened a first-of-its-kind facility at a secret location where 70 federal agents work side-by-side with police and prosecutors. Their primary focus is the point of contact between suburban-based cartel operatives and city street gangs who act as retail salesmen.

Chicago recently grabbed national headlines when the Chicago Crime Commission, a non-government agency, named Sinola cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Cuzman Loera Public Enemy No. 1. This dubious title was originally created for Al Capone.

This distinction was part public relations stunt and part acknowledgment of a serious problem in Chicago. From CNN:

"While Chicago is 1,500 miles from Mexico, the Sinaloa drug cartel is so deeply embedded in the city that local and federal law enforcement are forced to operate as if they are on the border," said Jack Riley, who heads the Drug Enforcement Administration's office in the city.

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