Mexican smugglers clone Border Patrol vehicles to evade detection

Published 12 April 2010

There is a new twist in the on going war along the U.S.-Mexico border: Mexican smugglers now use “cloned” Border Patrol vehicles to smuggle drugs into the United States; there is an added danger here, as Mexican drug cartels have launched an assassination campaign against U.S. law enforcement personnel along the border; driving a Border Patrol look-alike vehicle allows the assailants to get closer to their targets without arousing suspicion

U.S. federal agents along the Texas border were warned by DHS that Mexican drug cartels are using “cloned” Border Patrol vehicles to smuggle drugs into the United States, according to documents obtain by the Washington Examiner. The DHS report was sent to Border Patrol officials in Webb County, Texas, in March. It asked Border Patrol agents and local law enforcement officials to be on alert for “a suspected cloned marked Crown Victoria” the same vehicle type used by the agents.

The Examiner’s Sara A. Carter writes that the alert was part of a “significant incident report,” which contains information that is not to be made public or released to the media. A U.S. law enforcement Official, with knowledge of drug cartel operations along the border, said “cloned vehicles pose a significant problem for both law enforcement and citizens.”

He said, “It’s especially dangerous since attacks against federal and local law enforcement agents has increased over the past year. The cartels are finding more innovative ways to move across the border and we have to be one step ahead of them.”

The danger has increased for federal agents on the border, figures showed. Steven Cribby, spokesman for the DHS, said assaults on Border Patrol agents are up “16 percent compared to last year.” One federal law enforcement official said incursions over the border from Mexico involving fake Border Patrol vehicles have happened for years. He recalled a chase in which U.S. law enforcement officials pursued a cloned Border Patrol vehicle transporting narcotics until it recrossed the border.

There was very little we could do once the vehicle crossed back into Mexico,” he said. Some federal law enforcement officials said intelligence indicates that Mexican law enforcement officials who have been corrupted by payments from drug cartels are assisting in cross-border drug smuggling. “We don’t know who to trust anymore,” one federal official said. “The problem gets more pronounced when some actual Mexican law enforcement or military are working for the cartels.”

Carter writes that Texas law enforcement authorities have been complaining that incursions across the border by Mexican police are occurring more frequently, according to Representative Ted Poe (R-Texas). According to Poe, those incursions, “represent how dangerously porous our border still really is.”

Poe, who serves on the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime Terrorism, and Homeland Security and Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law Membership, said he will call for hearings on border security. “People who say that the violence on the border won’t come into the U.S. live in never-never land,” he said. “They don’t see what’s happening now. We should not wait until something tragic happens before we do something about it.”