Public Safety officials in Texas are warning parents about a disturbing new trend. Drug cartels are seeking younger and younger recruits within Texas schools, MyFoxHouston reports.
Six of the seven Mexican cartels have reportedly established command and control networks in Texas.
"The cartel influence is here," Duane Steen, regional commander for the Texas Department of Public Safety told MyFoxHouston.
Several incidents within the past 30 days prompted DPS to issue the warning, but offcials say the threat began a few years ago.
Elisabeth Mandala left a Texas public high school for Mexico last May where she wound up beaten to death in a pick up truck along with two men carrying fake identification. It's believed the violent drug cartels recruited Mandala to smuggle illegal immigrants across the border.
"Sometimes this may be delivering drugs. It may be crossing drugs over from Mexico or involvement in some of the other violent activities," Steen said.
Just last week in a border county officers caught a 12-year-old boy driving a stolen pick up truck with more than 800 pounds of marijuana, MyFoxHouston reports.
Last month two Texas teens were lured to Mexico where they were kidnapped, beaten, ransomed and released in a remote area along the Rio Grande River.
Authorities say that within the past year, more than 25 juveniles have been arrested for drug trafficking in one Texas border county alone.
"Recruiting is easy for such a vulnerable population," Kim Ogg, the former gang task force director for the city of Houston, told MyFoxHouston.
Ogg suspects the cartels are recruiting through gangs.
"Some see it (the gang) as their family. Some are attracted to the money, drugs, guns, women, and others are attracted because they have family members in gangs and it seems normal," said Ogg.