DPS Colonel: 'The Cartels, That's Our Enemy'
KSAT 12 News Reporter
Standing before a large Texas map that plots drugs, money and weapons seized, the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety said the potential threat posed by Mexican drug cartels extends throughout the state.
Col. Steve McCraw said six of the seven major cartels are now operating in Texas with "command and control networks" in major metropolitan areas.
McCraw added the Mexican Mafia is San Antonio's biggest challenge.
McCraw said many Texas-based criminal gangs were working for the cartels, an indication of their reach beyond the border.
Asked whether his agency's heightened role of helping the federal government protect the border amounted to an undeclared war against the cartels, McCraw said, "We don't use that term."
Still he said, "The enemy is the cartels. That's our enemy."
McCraw said they represent the most significant organized crime threat of his law enforcement career.
He once headed the FBI office in San Antonio and later the state's Office of Homeland Security before taking the reins at DPS.
In response to the drug cartel threat, McCraw said the agency is building up its tactical resources, such as strike teams made up of its SWAT officers and Texas Ranger reconnaissance teams.
He also said, "We're going to have black and white boats on the water soon."
McCraw said DPS will have three boats on the Rio Grande to stop smugglers in rafts on the U.S. side of the river, recovering marijuana bales lost during "splashdowns" as they try to return their loads to Mexico.
But McCraw said it could be a dangerous game-changer.
"Certainly, but troopers understand that," he said, especially after a June 9 incident on the Rio Grande.
McCraw said one of his recon teams exchanged gunfire with smugglers on the Mexican side following a splashdown near Mission, Texas.
McCraw also said the agency will have its own single-engine plane equipped with high altitude surveillance gear.
DPS reported its latest two-year budget for border security totals $171.7 million, compared to $100.2 million in 2009.
An agency representative said the new boats will cost $400,000 each, $8 million for its new plane, currently out for bid.
McCraw said they will augment the DPS 15 helicopters statewide, including five on the border.
"We can't be reactive. We have to be proactive," he said in the face of increasingly confrontational tactics.
McCraw said the cartels operate more like military than drug traffickers, "command and control, intelligence, they use counter-surveillance tactics very well."