by Daniel Borunda
El Paso Times
Three teenage drug couriers were stopped at the border in the El Paso region in less than a week in what U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials described as an abnormal number.
"The number of juvenile drug smugglers we apprehended this week is greater than we typically see. Usually we average about three to four cases per month," said Christopher Saindon, acting CBP El Paso director of field operations.
"Parents should take note and talk to their children about the criminal consequences and dangers associated with drug smuggling," Saindon said in a statement.
Officials said the latest case occurred Wednesday when CBP officers found 22 pounds of marijuana in a vehicle driven by a 16-year-old boy from El Paso at the Zaragoza Bridge.
The boy was arrested by El Paso County constables. Juvenile drug cases are often handed to local authorities for prosecution.
On Tuesday, CBP officers found 2 pounds of marijuana in the backpack of a 14-year-old boy from Palomas, Mexico, when the boy was crossing the border at Columbus, N.M., officials said. The boy was arrested.
On Feb. 4, CBP officers found 3 pounds of marijuana strapped to the body of a 17-year-old boy from El Paso at the Bridge of the Americas.
Ten years ago, CBP would make 100 to 150 juvenile drug smuggling arrests a year in the El Paso area, but the number dropped to 40 in fiscal year 2010, officials said.
In 2010, the El Paso County attorney's office prosecuted 10 juveniles (up to 16 years old)in drug-smuggling cases from the local international bridges.
There were at least eight such cases last year, officials said.