But that doesn’t mean the notorious gang has not been through here, said Texas Department of Public Safety Criminal Investigation Division Agent Drew Pilkington.
“Is U.S. Highway 59 a pipeline or is Beeville a pit stop for drugs being ferried between Laredo and Houston?” Pilkington asked.
The answer is easy. The highway is the major thoroughfare between the border’s largest inland port and Texas’ largest city, he said.
Eighty-one members of La Familia were arrested in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and Austin areas in the crackdown last month, Pilkington said.
“The operation didn’t affect our area,” he said.
His office is always contacted when federal officers working for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Immigrations and Customs come into Bee County.
More than 200 DPS agents, troopers, pilots and Texas Rangers were reported to have taken part in the crackdown that led to 81 arrests and the execution of 45 search warrants.
But the effort was concentrated on places like Dallas, Austin, Garland, Grand Prairie, Arlington, Mesquite, Watauga, Quinlin, Saginaw, Magnolia, Texarkana, Wolfforth, Pflugerville and Round Rock.
“This operation is an excellent example of how effective relationships among local, state and federal partners can be used to maximize the impact on powerful and ruthless criminal organizations,” said DPS Director Steven C. McCraw. “I would like to commend our local and federal partners for working together as a team during the course of this operation to ensure its success.”
Authorities were carrying 130 arrest warrants when they initiated the raids on Oct. 21.
“I’m surprised that none occurred in San Antonio,” Pilkington said. While Houston was involved, that means they (cartel members) had to come through this area to get there.”
Reports from the DPS said officers and agents recovered 220 pounds of methamphetamine, 23.1 pounds of cocaine, one gallon of liquid methamphetamine, $960,000 in cash, 54 guns, one jet ski, one recreational vehicle and two all-terrain vehicles.
DPS officials describe La Familia, as the cartel is commonly called, as a violent criminal organization based in the Mexican state of Michoacan. It has a major drug distribution operation in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex area, authorities say.
Unlike other Mexican drug cartels, the organization deals mainly with methamphetamine.
According to a recent article in Time Magazine, La Familia is believed to bring in more than half of the 200 tons of crystal methamphetamine smuggled into the United States each year.
Law enforcement officials in the United States also believe the gang has brought its violence to the this country as well.
Pilkington said that just because agents did not come to Bee County does not mean there is no gang or drug activity here.
La Familia is more than likely going to come through Beeville at times, Pilkington said.
But because of the efforts of Sheriff Carlos Carrizales Jr., Police Chief Joe Treviño and Bee County District Attorney Martha Warner, people smuggling drugs, illegal aliens and gang members are doing their best to avoid Bee County.
“We’ve found maps on them diverting them around Bee County because they know if they come through here we’re gonna get ’em,” Pilkington said.
Thanks to efforts like Operation Border Star, which the sheriff’s office has participated in here, “they’re going outside of the Highway 59 corridor,” Pilkington said.
Although La Familia has not been known to operate in this county, state and local law enforcement agencies work tirelessly to keep track of the gang members who do operate here.
Pilkington said members of the Mexican Mafia, the Texas Syndicate, a few members of Raza Unida and some members of Hermanedad de Pistoleros Latinos are known to call Bee County home.
“They’re going to be our main players,” the agent said.
“The crooks are getting smarter,” Pilkington admitted. “But we’re getting smarter too. It’s a kind of cat-and-mouse game.”
Investigators in this county work tirelessly to identify gang members when they’re still on the street and then monitor them in prison and watch them again when they come out of prison and come back into the community, Pilkington explained.
Several state and local lawmen from the area attended a Houston Regional Gang Course last month, gaining comprehensive information on street and prison gangs operating in the region.
The event was sponsored by the Office of the Attorney General, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and the Houston Mayor’s Anti-Gang Office.
Pilkington said courses like that provide plenty of vital information to federal, state and local law enforcement officers dedicated to keeping gang activity in check throughout the state.