Drug cartels target youth in border towns
El Paso, TX (KTSM) — For the Mexican drug cartels, targeting teenagers and luring them into a life of crime is not uncommon.
Teens are recruited as mules and even assassins -- and that raises concerns among parents about how they can protect their child from these crimes.
Unfortunately, officials say there is always going to be a risk of kids getting picked up by drug cartels to do the dirty work.
But according to the El Paso County Attorney's Office, protecting a child can be as easy as sitting down and having a conversation at the dinner table.
Ralph Girvin, the juvenile division chief for the County Attorney's Office says even some of a community's most well-behaved kids can be manipulated by the cartels.
He says parties, clubs, and even schools are easy pick-up stops for drug lords.
"High schools are like mini communities. You have individuals who run the gamut - everybody who can tell you where to get the best ice cream in town to the best drugs in town," said Girvin.
Once a drug lord is born, Girvin says there is little a parent can do to intervene.
The child's life falls into the hands of federal authorities and the chance for a brighter future is bleak.
The solution, according to Girvin, is to identify the problem before it happens.
The County Attorney's Office travels to schools in the Borderland -- showing how easy it is for teens to get recruited, and how devastating it can be.
Many teens, who come from poor communities become seduced by the lure of easy money and a sense of power but officials say the thug life is a one-way street.
"At the very, very, very best level, you get caught, and you get arrested, and you get prosecuted - at the very worst, you end up dead," said Girvin.
Red flags for parents include noticing your child changing friends, the child having large sums of money all of a sudden, and kids buying expensive things they otherwise couldn't afford.