The violence associated with Mexican drug cartels is now spilling over onto the America side of the border in Arizona and Texas, state officials have admitted.
The New York Times reports that Arizona has seen a dramatic spike in drug-related abductions, home invasions, and even men dressed in SWAT gear wielding military-grade weaponry.
A home invasion here last year was carried out by attackers wielding military-style rifles and dressed in uniforms similar to a Phoenix police tactical unit. The discovery of grenades and other military-style weaponry bound for Mexico is becoming more routine, as is hostage-taking and kidnapping for ransom, law enforcement officials said.
The Phoenix police regularly receive reports involving a border-related kidnapping or hostage-taking in a home.
The Maricopa County attorney’s office said such cases rose to 241 last year from 48 in 2004, though investigators are not sure of the true number because they believe many crimes go unreported.
The violence, said Commander Dan Allen of the State Department of Public Safety, is “reaching into Arizona, and that is what is really alarming local and state law enforcement.”
In Texas, state Homeland Security Director Steve McCraw told the El Paso Times that drug violence has indeed crossed the border.
"Yes, absolutely it has occurred; there's no question about it," he said.
The violence has led Governor Rick Perry to request an additional $135 million for border security from the state legislature.
This admission comes after news that Texas activated the lowest stage of its border security plan after protests and violence broke out in Mexican border towns last week and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the former governor of Arizona, told reporters last Thursday that drug-related violence has not crossed the Mexican-American border.
"Right now it has not (crossed the border). But it is a contingency we have in mind because it could," she said. "We have contingency plans should violence spread into the United States."
Mexican drug traffickers now control much of the American market. In a recent report, the National Drug Intelligence Center said Mexican cartels influence has spread into as many as 230 U.S. cities, according to the NYTimes.
In Mexico, the escalating drug war that pits cartel against cartel and cartels against the Mexican state killed approximately 6,000 people last year. Already this year, more than 260 people have lost their lives to the drug-fueled chaos.
The concerns about violence and kidnapping across the border have become so prevalent, reports the Associated Press, that three universities in Arizona—University of Arizona, Arizona State University, and Northern Arizona University—have warned their students about making the spring break rite of passage to Mexico for a week.
Special Agent Tom Mangan, a spokesman for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives told the news service that the universities had given their students "sage advice."