LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Police worry the promise of money could be enough for some students to unknowingly put their lives in jeopardy. Law enforcement says Mexican cartels are trying to corrupt Texas' youth to further their smuggling operations.
"They are young, they have clean driving records and they would be easily accessible to be hired I guess by the cartel to do their dirty work for them," says Jay Jost, Lufkin ISD Police Chief.
Jost says they educate kids early on about the dangers of gangs and encourage them to choose their friends wisely.
Good advice since the Department of Public Safety is warning parents Mexican cartels are recruiting high school students to support their drug, human, currency, and weapon smuggling operations.
"The biggest reason is they're young and they're easy to influence and like I said, they number one don't have a record, so if they're out there working for them and they're stopped, you're stopping someone that doesn't have a record that would maybe seem like somebody out there that wouldn't be doing anything wrong," says Greg Sanchez, Texas DPS Trooper.
Authorities say six of the seven Mexican cartels have set up command and control centers in Texas and are recruiting Texas students and although Jost says they haven't seen much of a problem yet, they are on-guard.
"I do know that when they victimize young people, they coerce them with a promise of something and most of the time that's going to be money," says Jost.
If kids take the bait, authorities warn they could put their lives and families on the line.
"I'll tell you how dangerous it is, a lot of people I've talked to over the years in law enforcement will tell you that a lot of times when you get involved in these gangs... it's hard to get out of it because then they're afraid that you're going to tell on them," says Sanchez.
His advice, keep an open line of communication with your kids and watch for changes in behavior.