cameras will be placed on private ranch land all across south Texas
Linda Vickers always thought that the thousand acre cattle and horse ranch she and her husband operate southwest of Corpus Christi was about the most out of the way place in the world. But as she and her husband, who is a large animal veterinarian, flip through photographs of men bearing the tattoos of the "Los Zetas" Mexican drug gang and the vicious Salvadoran prison gang "MS-13" who have been arrested in the front yard of their ranch house, the automatic weapons found stashed in their outbuildings, and the 13 bodies which they have discovered on their ranch just this year, it is clear that the problems of the world have found their way to her doorstep.
"I don't leave the house without a cell phone and a pistol," she told 1200 WOAI news. "This is a threat that we in the United States shouldn't have to live with."
While the murder of Border Patrol agents and the seizure of huge shipments of drugs and weapons are the familiar face of the U.S. Mexico border for most Americans, the daily battles that border area landowners face against a parade of human smugglers, undocumented immigrants, and drug smugglers is the often untold story.
"We pick up mounts of trash, backpacks, diapers, toilet paper," she says. "They break the pipes of stock tanks to get water, and that burns out the motor on our windmill. It happens all the time."
Texas officials today announced a plan to place hundreds of small, motion sensitive cameras on private property across the border region, which will instantly transmit photographs and location information of intruders to Border Patrol and local law enforcement officers so they can do a better job of rounding up the intruders which have turned Linda Vickers' life upside down.
"Our farmers and ranchers are being shot at, they are being intimidated, they are being chased off their own property on an all too frequent basis," said Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples.
Staples called the situation along the Texas Mexico border 'desperate and dangerous,' and Steven McCraw, the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety and the state's top law enforcement officer, echoed those remarks.
"Six of the seven Mexican cartels are operating in Texas," he said, calling cartel leaders and their members 'ruthless and depraved.' "They have command and control facilities in Texas and are working closely with trans-national gangs and prison gangs on both sides of the border.
"These are organized crime entities and they are using terrorist tactics to dominate certain areas of the border into Texas so they can move ton quantities of drugs into Texas. They are also now very active in human smuggling."
He agreed with Vickers that today's drug gang members have become more violent just in the past two years.
"It used to be that they would surrender when confronted, but we have recently seen them shoot at more than sixty law enforcement officers, that hasn't happened before, they are engaging in high speed pursuits and they are more dangerous to us and to the public."
McCraw said drug couriers tell officers that the cartels have threatened to kill their families in Mexico or Central America if they don't get the drug shipments through.
He says more and more, the cartels are moving into Texas high schools, mainly in Hispanic neighborhoods, and using their cash to enroll American teenagers into drug gang activities.
"We have one school where 25 students were being used by these gangs to move drugs around," he said.
The cameras being placed on ranch land is an extension of a test program which has been in place since January which has resulted in 4,000 arrests and the seizure of more than ten tons of narcotics.
Linda Vickers can't wait to get one on her ranch.
"I've had people come up behind me in my horse barn, I have people running across my front yard," she said. "We are being invaded."