Last month a group of men assaulted a police station. They sprayed it with automatic weapons fire and lobbed grenades through its doors. It was the fourth attack on that same station in two nights.
If you had to guess where this happened, you probably would say Iraq or some Taliban-riddled town in Pakistan or Afghanistan. You would be wrong. This act of war happened in the southwestern Mexican state of Michoacán.
And it was not an isolated incident. Mexican drug cartels have declared open season on law enforcement officers and their families. Earlier this year in the state of Tabasco, gunmen attacked the home of a state police official, killing him and 11 members of his family, including a two-year-old.
Mexico is coming apart at the seams. Drug cartels and gangs like Los Zetas have transformed the country into a battlefield. Last year, the drug war officially claimed the lives of 5,000 people and who knows how many people just disappeared, victims of unspeakable horrors after they were kidnapped.
Kidnapping for ransom and brutality for kicks are signature activities of the Mexican drug cartels, and they are now playing that game here. In the last few years, Phoenix has become the kidnapping capital of America. In 2008, there were 370 kidnappings in the city.
"We're in the eye of the storm," Phoenix Police Chief Andy Anderson told ABC. "If it doesn't stop here, if we're not able to fix it here and get it turned around, it will go across the nation." It may already have spread across the nation. The National Drug Intelligence Center says that Mexican cartels have operations in 230 American cities.
Is it too late to stop Mexican cartel violence from coming to America in all its grisly glory? Maybe.
But we have to try, and the only way we are going to stop the growth of the cartels is to hit their profit centers. Their reason for being is drug trafficking. Unfortunately, no one knows how to stop it.
Mexican law enforcement with the help of the Mexican military and funding from the U.S. government have attacked the drug lords head on. And they have failed miserably. Drug money is so corrupting that the drug lords have bribed both police and soldiers at the highest levels. The nation's top drug enforcement official was just arrested on charges of taking $450,000 per month in bribes from the cartels.
Another approach to the problem would be an attempt to dry up demand for the cartel's products. Some say that legalizing marijuana in the United States would have the same effect on the Mexican cartels as repeal of Prohibition had on the Capone gang. These folks are deluded. Yes, the cartels run grass. They also run coke, heroin, and meth. So legalizing marijuana would have limited effect on these drug lords. And I don't think any rational person wants to legalize smack.
I believe the only thing we can do (short of sending Spec Ops units to Mexico to kill everyone in the cartels, and that's not really an option) is to improve border security. Experts say the violence follows the drugs. That means we need to stop the flow of drugs across the border. And just about everyone's for that. The problem is that the same paths used to move the drugs over the border are also used to smuggle illegal workers, and we all know what a political hot potato that issue can be.
This is such a huge problem that you, as law enforcement officers, need to discuss it. If you have ideas on how to stop the spread of the drug cartel cancer and the Mexican drug war into America, write me at David.Griffith@PoliceMag.com. I will share them with your fellow officers in an upcoming issue of POLICE. Next to Islamist terrorism, this is the greatest threat to our national security. We all need to put our heads together and find a way to defeat it.