Drug Groups Expand Recruiting Operations North Of Border
September 13, 2010

U.S. federal officials say drug groups who recruit San Diego teenagers to smuggle drugs across the U.S.-Mexico border have expanded their recruiting operations.

Drug groups have long recruited teenagers who live in San Diego and Imperial County neighborhoods along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Federal officials say that, during the last year, the groups have begun recruiting teenagers who live miles north.

Jose Garcia, who is with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), says places like Encanto, University Heights and Logan Heights are targets.

"I'll use the analogy of a pond for fishing. After a while, you've fished out the pond, so you need to go somewhere else, and I think that's kind of what's happening here," said Garcia.

Drug groups pay the teens about a hundred dollars to go to Tijuana, tape the drugs to themselves and walk across the border -- or drive cars stuffed with drugs across.

Garcia says it used to be that drug groups targeted Hispanic teens that were comfortable on both sides of the border. "Now we're seeing some kids that don't have that comfort but are still willing to do it," he said.

This year students from Mira Mesa High School, about 30 miles from the border, are among the 150 juveniles caught for smuggling.

ICE officials have done anti-smuggling assemblies at 14 elementary, junior and high schools around San Diego County since 2009.