Home News Stories 2010 August Southwest Border, Part 1

Corruption, Drugs, Gangs, and More

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Shooting investigation at border
Investigators on scene following a shootout near the border. | Photo Gallery

On the Southwest Border
Corruption, Drugs, Gangs, and More

08/02/10

The U.S. border with Mexico extends nearly 2,000 miles, from San Diego, California to Brownsville, Texas. At too many points along the way, criminals ply their trade with surprising ease and devastating results.


Border turnstile

About This Series

FBI.gov recently visited the Southwest border region for a firsthand look at what the Bureau and its law enforcement partners are doing there to combat crime.

Part I: Border Crime | Gallery
Part II: Public Corruption
Part III: Violence Too Close to Home
Part IV: Forging Ties in Tijuana
Part V: A Drug Buy in El Paso
Part VI: The Major Players
Part VII: The Gang Threat
Part VIII: Importance of Intelligence

Drug cartels transporting kilos of cocaine and marijuana, gangs who think nothing of kidnapping and murder, traffickers smuggling human cargo, corrupt public officials lining their pockets by looking the other way—any one of these offenses represents a challenge to law enforcement.  

Taken together, they constitute a threat not only to the safety of our border communities, but to the security of the entire country.

During the next several weeks, FBI.gov will take you to the Southwest border for a firsthand look at our efforts there to fight crime. We will take you to San Diego—home of the world’s busiest port of entry—and across the border into Tijuana. We will also visit El Paso, Texas, whose sister city in Mexico—Juarez—has become as deadly as any war zone thanks to the drug cartels.

In articles, pictures, and video, we will chronicle the Bureau’s efforts to combat Southwest border crime through our participation in drug, violent crime, and public corruption task forces; our extensive intelligence-gathering efforts; and our vital partnerships with Mexican law enforcement.

Despite our continuing successes, however, much work is left to be done.

“With such a great expanse of territory to cover,” said Kevin Perkins, assistant director of our Criminal Investigative Division, “there are places where the border is permeable. In some areas of the desert, people can cross illegally at will, and they do. The U.S. government has built fences and other barriers that our adversaries are continually trying to defeat, and in some cases they are defeating them,” he added.  “Either they're tunneling under, flying over, or actually cutting through the various defenses we've put up.”

Transcript

The cartels make billion-dollar profits trafficking drugs. Gaining and controlling border access is critical to their operations. They maintain that control through bribery, extortion, intimidation, and extreme violence. Some areas on the Mexican side of the border are so violent they are reminiscent of the gangster era of Chicago in the 1930s or the heyday of the Mafia’s Five Families in New York. In Tijuana, for example, a man who came to be known as "The Strew Maker"—El Pozolero—worked for one of the cartels dissolving hundreds of murder victims in acid to dispose of the evidence. In Juarez, decapitated heads of murdered cartel members have been displayed on fence posts to intimidate rivals.

“We think al Qaeda is violent,” said one of our senior agents in El Paso, “but the cartels here are often just as willing to resort to extreme brutality and bloodshed to carry out their objectives.”

The disturbing level of violence sometimes overshadows the national security risks along the border, Perkins said. “Unfortunately, there are border guards who are corrupt—people who can wave vehicles through checkpoints. Those vehicles could contain narcotics or illegal aliens, but they could also be pieces to the next dirty bomb brought into the country by terrorists. We are working very hard to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Next: Public Corruption: A Few Bad Apples