Teens Are Easy Targets For Smuggling Drugs

Teens Are Easy Targets For Smuggling Drugs
Posted by FoM on December 01, 1999 at 20:38:53 PT
By Kevin Newman,
Source: ABC NEWS
Teenagers are easy targets and get lighter punishments. In Texas, 98 received probation and 63 had their cases dropped or dismissed. The U.S. Customs Service estimates that 400 teenagers have been arrested so far this year for smuggling drugs into the country, an increase of 30 percent over last year. 
   One of the hottest places for teenage smuggling is El Paso, Texas, just across the border from Juarez, Mexico, where bodies were found. One in eight smugglers arrested there is now younger than 18. Federal law protects their identities from being revealed.   For one 16-year-old American, the temptation was great. What made her say yes? They offered her $800.   “It seemed easy enough,” she says. “To drive a car over a bridge.”   Even the consequences seemed minor to one 14-year-old smuggler from El Paso, a mere three weeks in jail. Easy Young Targets:Boys and girls are increasingly popular targets for Mexican drug cartels because they’ll smuggle narcotics for less money, and they are easily manipulated. Customs officials say the exploitation is mushrooming.   “We’re talking about a 90 percent increase from previous years,” says J.J. Lopez of the U.S. Customs in El Paso.   The recruiting begins on the Mexican side of the border, in Juarez. Drug cartels target poor young Mexicans and American teenagers bar hopping, who are willing to drive the quarter mile to El Paso for a couple of hundred dollars.   “I didn’t even know their names,” one teenage smuggler says, speaking of the dealers. “Nothing. We just met them that day.”   The teenagers are given a car and a promise of payment once they’ve taken the drugs across the border.Teens Being Misled:When asked how much marijuana he thought he had in the car, he responds, “About 10 pounds. They said it was going to be a small amount. But it was a big amount of pot. … 10 pounds.”   So much traffic moves across this border, finding even half of the cars carrying drugs is impossible.   When sniffer dogs do pick up a scent, agents then look for the telltale signs of a hidden stash.   Wrapped in bundles, they find 170 pounds of marijuana with a street value of $680,000.   Yet as agents compiled this evidence, the 15- and 16-year-old American girls who drove the car seemed relaxed. They may spend a few weeks in detention but the likelihood of going to jail is remote.   “It’s true in most cases,” says Raymond Kelly, the commissioner for the U.S. Customs Service. “In many cases, nothing happens to young people who are caught with a quantity of drugs.”Lax Sentences:Even in a tough-on-crime state such as Texas, only 17 juveniles have been sent to prison in the past two and a half years. Ninety-eight received probation and 63 had their cases dropped or dismissed.   Probation officials say kids deserve a chance to learn from their mistakes.   “Most of these kids are first offenders,” says Samuel Santana of the El Paso Juvenile Probation Department. “Probably about 85 to 90 percent are.”   But light punishment is also a selling point for the drug cartels when they make their pitch. And Mexican authorities seem unwilling to crack down on them.   “I’m not hopeful on that side at all,” says Lt. Marvin Ryals of the El Paso Sheriff’s Department.   So U.S. Customs agents say it’s all but inevitable that more children will be lured into the web of the narcotics trade. Pubdate: December 1, 1999Copyright ©1999 ABC News Internet Ventures. Related Articles:'Truly Horrid' Search At Border - 12/01/99 Discovery Intensifies Drug War Debate - 12/01/99 Graves Found Near Mexican City - 11/30/99 Dig for Mass Graves at U.S.-Mexico - 11/30/99 
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on December 01, 1999 at 20:47:38 PT
WGN Radio 720 Chicago Poll
What course would you like to see U.S. drug policy take?1: Convict Drug Dealers2: Convict Drug Users3: Legalize Drugs4: Other
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