DALLAS—Law enforcement officials believe Mexican drug cartels are responsible for some of the biggest drug deals in the world. Their killings so brutal it's difficult to even describe them.
On Tuesday, the Texas Department of Public safety issued a warning to parents. The Mexican drug cartels are targeting our children. The drug cartels and other transnational gangs are recruiting in our schools and our communities.
"It can start as young as middle school age and they groom them into adult hood," says Texas DPS Spokesperson Trp. Lonny Haschel.
"The cartels use cash as an incentive. They use notoriety, saying if you do this you will be known in your community. The cartels are trying to lure children with these things."
Mexican drug cartel recruitment is spread across Texas, but it's most prominent in the border counties. In 2008, that region accounts for 18 percent of all felony drug and gang related arrests in the state.
For example, Laredo natives Gabriel Cardona and Rosalio Reta were recruited to be hit men for the cartels. El Paso teens have been recruited to smuggle drugs across the border.
"The schools are still the safest place to be for the children," says Michael Dovick a Gang Specialist at DISD.
The DISD gang unit says it is well aware of the cartels, but so far there are no signs of them in North Texas schools.
The unit says just because the cartels are not in our schools doesn't mean parents can ignore any changes in their children
"Kids that were once honor roll students going to school every day and are now failing their classes skipping school, that is a sign. That is a wound. That is a child looking for healing."
Other warning signs include a change in personality and attitude towards family and friends. A change in clothing and dress. Also if you notice extra cash around your child and a recent new expensive purchase.
But mainly, say law enforcement officials, stay close to your kids. The intelligence community believes what these would-be recruits seek is acceptance and a family.
"Don't turn to the gangs for membership for that feeling of belonging. Look to the family."