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Austin Used as Command Center and Distribution Hub for Drug Cartels

While so much attention is generally placed on the drug-related violence south of the border, U.S. cities facing growing problems can easily be ignored. For the city of Austin, Texas, its role is changing as it is growing in importance to drug cartels as it serves as a transit center.

Austin News recently reported that the City of Austin Public Safety Commission has called upon local leaders of the FBI, the DEA, the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Austin Police Department to update the city regarding concerns about how the changing dynamics of the drug war in Mexico is affecting the Austin area.

"I don’t know if we can actually articulate that there’s more cocaine flowing into Austin than there was five years ago," DEA agent Greg Thrash said in the Austin News. "We base a lot of this on intelligence; we base it on seizures, but what we have seen is Austin being increasingly used as a city of importance…as a transit, as a distribution hub."

Now that Austin has been categorized as a transit or distribution hub, the Office of National Drug Control Policy now qualifies the city and Travis County to receive more federal money to help combat drug-trafficking in the area. Most cities not directly on the border but near the border have qualified as second-tier cities, or “high-intensity drug-trafficking areas.”

"Politics come into play, with respect to different funding mechanisms, as we know," Thrash said. "When I say political, it’s political in the sense that for these decisions to be made, you need a lot of your local politicians to support certain initiatives."

According to APD Commander Chris Noble, Austin currently has an estimated 2,000 gang members, a 20 percent increase from 2008. According to Thrash, the city is being used as commanding control and transit and distribution hub. He said federal, state and local officials are working together to gather intelligence and "be proactive.”

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