In Focus

Warning of violence not released

Thursday, February 21, 2008

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, it's too dangerous to travel across the Texas-Mexico border. It's actually a warning the DPS didn't want you to know about.

An email we uncovered shows Texas law enforcement officers are worried about safety along the Texas border.

The memo connects a lot of events that happened right across the border. In November, five people were killed and Mexican officials say those deaths are connected to drugs. In January in Rio Bravo, there was a violent shootout between drug cartel members and police. And in late January, 6,000 soldiers from the Mexican army were deployed to three border communities to try to re-establish some kind of order.

DPS knew about all of this and the danger it could pose to Texas. They decided to tell us none of it.

Evelyn Garcia lives in Laredo, has family across the border, but rarely visits them.

"It's very dangerous," she said. "You never know what you can expect. Just seeing people with guns and everything, it's just very dangerous."

Another man we spoke with has family in Monterrey. He has to drive through Mexican border towns to see them, but doesn't stop.

"If you're going to cross the border, be conscious of the danger there is," he said.

They both know what the Texas Department of Public Safety knows, that Mexican drug violence has popped up this year in Mexican cities all along the border.

The DPS could not be much clearer when it wrote on January 28:

    "It is advised that Texas residents should avoid travelling to Mexican border communities, particularly those that have recently been scenes of violent gang activity."
And yet, the three-and-a-half-week old document was never released to the public. DPS tells us the bulletin obtained by Eyewitness News was sent to law enforcement agencies on the border and DPS offices statewide.

"This is very important. I think we should know more about this. It's very dangerous," said Garcia. "Once you're over there and you need help, there's not much people can do."

The memo says that the local police forces in Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros and Reynosa were disarmed in late January after concerns they had been infiltrated by drug cartels.

For the last three weeks, the Mexican army has patrolled the streets in Nuevo Laredo, restoring order and looking for drug ring leaders.

DPS admits some of those leaders may have crossed into Texas to avoid capture, which concerns local law enforcement.

"When you have people crossing over into the US side, you take it for granted there will be people from the opposing cartel following these people over to this side to try to knock them off," said Webb County Sheriff Rick Flores.

And that brings the threat of violence directly into border communities on the Texas side.

We asked DPS why it didn't release the warning to the public. They told us despite the fact they warn all Texas residents, it wasn't for public consumption. It was simply a law enforcement document.

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