Border violence spilling into Houston?

March 24, 2009 5:18:15 PM PDT
Heightened violence along the US-Mexico border is leading to worries the murders and kidnappings are spilling into American cities like Houston. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

There is an ongoing struggle right now in Mexico, a battle between cartels, fighting over drug distribution routes that run right through American cities like Houston. While the links between some of Houston's street crime and cartels is not obvious, the connections become clearer as authorities dig deeper in their investigations.

Though certain violent crimes on the streets of Houston appear to be random, sources in law enforcement say once they scratch beneath the surface, they discover alarming evidence that often times ties those crimes to the Mexican drug trade.

"When you've got an organization as large as the cartels are that are pulling $30 billion out of the United States in drug proceeds every year, you've got to have cells inside the United States handling and managing the different operational aspects of the cartels," said former FBI agent James Conway.

Those aspects that include everything from drug distribution and money collection to money laundering and enforcement. Conway, who spent nearly a decade of his 25-year career investigating organized crime and drug trafficking, says it's as if an element of lawlessness has taken over the streets of our cities as the cartels increase their activity.

"The sharp uptick in crime that you've seen, home invasions, kidnappings, mutilations and so forth in Atlanta, in Texas, in Arizona," he said.

Conway says the general threat to the public is when innocent bystanders are caught in the crosshairs. In May of 2006, Jose Perez was shot and killed in front of his family outside a Houston restaurant in what turned out to be a case of mistaken identity. Prosecutors say Steven Torres, one of the men arrested, hired a hit man for the alleged boss of a Mexican drug cartel to shoot who he thought was the boss of a rival drug gang.

Both Torres and Pedro Quintanilla have been charged with capital murder in connection with the killing of Perez. Both are due in court later this week.

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