EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — Officials from the United States and Mexico on Monday unveiled a program to nab violent criminals who operate on both sides of the border.
Most of these “border’s most wanted” violent offenders work for the Mexican drug cartels and are involved in extortion, assaults, kidnappings and other violent offenses that threaten public safety in Texas and in Mexico, federal officials said.
The “Se Busca Informacion” (Information Wanted) campaign consists of identifying 10 top targets of law-enforcement, putting up their photograph on posters and billboards near ports of entry and setting up toll-free anonymous tip lines.
The campaign “is very similar to a neighborhood watch, very similar to a crime stoppers program but in a binational setting,” said Manuel Padilla, director of Joint Task Force West, a San Antonio-based intelligence unit tracking the drug cartels and other threats to national security.
Padilla said the cartels and other transnational criminal organizations (TCOs), know no borders, so Mexico and the U.S. have to fight them together. Tips about TCOs and their operatives called in by citizens of either country will be analyzed and acted upon.
The program has been operating in the Rio Grande Valley since 2018 and already yielded at least six arrests, Padilla said. The program was implemented last month in Laredo and Monday in El Paso.
“Every transnational criminal organization requires money, transportation, requires many a time forcing people to commit some of the crimes for them. So communities on both sides of the border are victimized,” Padilla said. “The most important thing is engaging the community on policing both sides of the border.”
Officials on Monday showed off the first poster to be put up at border crossings and other locations in El Paso and Juarez. The poster has contact information and 10 photographs with no names.
“We are not placing the names on them because many of them use aliases,” Padilla said. Some of the mugshots were taken from security cameras, so authorities may not even have the luxury of an alias on the suspect in those cases.
Chihuahua Gov. Javier Corral said Mexican residents long for public safety the same as Americans, so they will cooperate in turning in the criminals. “There are many, many more good people than there are bad people,” he said.
Several Mexican journalists who attended a presentation about the anti-crime campaign repeatedly questioned officials about safeguards to make sure that people who are in Mexico — living amid the drug cartel violence — could be sure someone wouldn’t find out that they tried to turn in the criminals.
Padilla reassured them that all tips would be kept confidential on both sides of the border and stressed that the U.S. government already shares a lot of crime information with Mexico. “The government of Mexico has been very cooperative with us. … This is just another way we are asking them to help,” he said.
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