Mexican drug cartels that have expanded trafficking operations and violence into Texas pose the single greatest organized crime threat to the state, according to a review by the Texas Department of Public Safety.
The department this week announced results from its first published Public Safety Threat Overview. The review ranks Mexican cartels at the top of its organized crime threats, followed by prison gangs — many of which now work with cartels.
DPS believes six cartels use Texas as a base for moving illegal drugs, people, cash and weapons.
Cartels have operated in the United States for decades, but in recent years, they have ramped up other criminal activities and become more willing to engage in violence with law enforcement, DPS Director Steve McCraw said in an interview.
"In the old days, they pulled over and gave up," McCraw said in an interview. He added, "Now, by threat of death to them and others, they are commanded to confront law enforcement."
Police have made more than 300 arrests of cartel members and associates since 2007, the review said, which acknowledges the majority of crimes committed in Texas by cartels and gangs are not reported.
Texas also faces threats from international terrorism, natural disasters and motor vehicle crashes, according to the review.
More than 3,300 people died in vehicle crashes last year, according to the report. DPS must also contend with unpredictable storms and hurricanes, along with the threat of infectious viruses such as West Nile virus, which has killed 95 people in Texas since 2010, the report said.
While DPS routinely evaluates threats to the state, this report gives the public and law enforcement a chance to compare the varying risks Texas faces, McCraw said.
"In this process that we utilize, it's hard to compare wildfires with organized crime, with H1N1 or West Nile diseases, or an industrial accident," he said.