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Border Patrol: Drug cartels are targeting young smugglers

Border Patrol: Drug cartels are targeting young smugglers

CREATED Jun 30, 2011

Reporter: Steve Nuñez 
Web Producer: Layla Tang

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) – Authorities are noticing a disturbing new trend in Tucson schools, and it's not failing test scores. According to the U.S. Border Patrol, drug cartels are targeting high schoolers and even middle school students to recruit them as drug traffickers. Now, agents are going into local schools to educate and warn students about the dangers of smuggling narcotics.

Border Patrol agents visited La Paloma Academy Tuesday to speak to kids about smuggling.  They showed a video, titled "Operational Detour," which uses graphic images and blunt language to illustrate the horrors and tragedies that befall individuals and their families who get involved in the drug trade.  One scene shows a photo of teen kneeling down with a cartel member holding a gun to his head. The sound of gun shots can then be heard even though the video doesn't show the actual killing.  The goal is to scare students from becoming victims and statistics before it's too late.  But did these real-life images and straight talk seem real enough to really scare these impressionable middle school students at La Paloma?

Megan Ray, an 8th grader, said yes. "And drugs could kill your future if you have plans of being successful in life."

9 On Your Side Reporter Steve Nuñez also surveyed seven other students to find out exactly what they really know about drugs.

Nuñez asked them to raise their hands if they know someone who has used drugs.  All eight students raised their hands.  While these same students claim they've never been approached to smuggle drugs, they do admit that it's easy for any 13 or 14-year-old to get drugs.  When Nuñez asked if drugs are really a problem in schools, all eight students raised their hands to indicate that it was.

"Because there's a lot of influence.  Sometimes you can get drugs sometimes real easy," said Caleb Pipes, who has never used drugs but knows they're readily accessible for many young students.

The Border Patrol claims agents have busted 49 juveniles for smuggling drugs in the first two months of this year alone. They were all recruited by the cartels.  However, not one single bust or arrest took place on a school campus.

9 On Your Side asked Cari Talley, whose son took part in our discussion, if public schools should be the one's teaching kids about the consequences of working for the cartels.

"I believe so," said Talley. "If the kids are being taught this coming from all angles it's reinforced in multiple ways."

The Border Patrol initiates contact with all partnering schools.  Administrators at La Paloma Academy viewed the video and decided that it was something they wanted to show their students.

Since last May, agents have shown the same "Operation Detour" video to 11,100 students at schools located in Tucson and on the Tohono O'Odham reservation.