The War On Drugs And The Effects Criminology Essay

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Living in El Paso, Texas sparked interest in further studying the controversial topic of the Drug wars across the border and the effect it has on the children, more specifically Adolescents between the ages of 10-18. While working as an eighth grade school teacher in the economical disadvantage, high crime area of North East, El Paso, I have the opportunity to build rapports with my students, and have seen firsthand the hardships they go through on a daily basis. I have students who are moms at 14 and 15 years of age, fathers who are forced to work after school to support the girls they got pregnant, students who are almost of legal age and are still in 8th grade, and gang members come in with bruises and horrible scars after getting beat in Juarez over the weekend. This culture and environment they live in provided a fertile environment for gang membership and introductions to organized criminal activities among juveniles.

With the increasing issue of immigration and drug wars in Mexico, American children are increasingly becoming victims of this foreign war. Drug trafficking organizations (DTO's) along the Southwest Border dominate the illicit drug trade and are largely responsible for the violence that is plaguing many border communities. Children are at risk for abuse and neglect by parents or caregivers addicted to the drugs. In 2009, 980 children were reported to the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) as present at or affected by methamphetamine laboratories, including 8 who were injured and two who were killed at the laboratories. (NDIC 2010) Alarming enough these statistics do not include children killed by random gunfire associated with drug activity or who were physically or sexually abused by a “caretaker” involved in drug trafficking or under the influence of drugs. The numbers are not only alarming but increasing every year!

This is an important area of study because innocent children are being targeted and used in the terrible drug war. The goal of my research was to determine whether if the adolescents living in El Paso, are more likely to join gangs and commit violent crimes. This study further seeks to determine whether the Mexican drug war has a direct impact on adolescents becoming victims of organized criminal activities. Armed with this knowledge, parents, teachers, clergy, coaches and other responsible adults are better able to help these teens grow up drug free.

Gang Membership

There are nearly 1 million active gang members in the United States, based on analysis of federal, state, and local data, and the involvement of criminal gangs in domestic drug trafficking is becoming increasingly complex. (NDIC 2010) The influence of Hispanic gangs is expanding as these gangs gain greater control over drug distribution in rural and suburban areas and acquire drugs directly from DTOs in Mexico or along the Southwest Border. (NDIC 2010) Gang-violence affects many adolescents in the United States, and there has been an increase in violent crimes against adolescents in recent years. (Kelly, 2010) In the early 1990s, crime in El Paso, Texas seemed to be increasing in record proportions, especially crime involving young people such as gang violence. Reasons for joining gangs include a need for recognition, status, safety or security, power, excitement, and new experience. In addition; factors associated with the individual’s family, school, peers, neighborhood, and personal characteristics are an integral part of gang membership. (Sharpe, 2003) The gang count in border cities consists of street gangs, car clubs (that meet the definition of a gang), tagging crews/party crews and prison gangs. The majority of gang violence in the El Paso area is attributed to local drug street gangs, which are involved in all aspects of criminal activity. Youth groups and religious organizations, gangs offer structure and solutions for young members of their communities. (Cohen, 2008) However, the majority of violence is not drug driven. Most of the border town violence occurs for "respect" issues such as graffiti challenges, retaliation, throwing gang hand signs and mad-dogging. Nevertheless, when do these delinquent activities start? Teaching middle school in El Paso, I noticed the children start very young here, the lucrative life of drug dealing starts towards the end of elementary school years. Calvert mentions that most start by participating in antisocial behavior such as (lying, stealing, cheating, and aggressive behavior at an early age and continue to commit more offenses that are serious as an adult.

Organized Crime

While organized crime has an impact on youth that is both broad and direct, frequently it has a more substantial impact because of its indirect effects that note particularly at the community level. (Richter-White, 2002) In addition Richter-White (2002), provides the definition of organized crime as numerous but vague. They include four primary elements: a continuing organization; an organization that operates rationally for profit; the use of force or threats; and the need for corruption to maintain immunity from law enforcement. These crimes are responsible for enticing young adults to join a life of easy access of illicit funds.

Border City of Juarez and El Paso

Juarez, Mexico is the most plagued city in the country of Mexico. The corrupted police force was recently disarmed by the Mexican military. Ironically the city of El Paso, just across the border, has been one of the three safest large (population over 500,000) cities in America. (Cook, 2009) So how does the safest city have so many gang problems? El Paso has sections within the city called "colonias". These are like incubators of gang members for cartel franchises like infamous gangs:" La Linea", "Los Aztecas", and "Los Mexicles" to name a few. The cartels are armed, and well organized as any organized-crime gang in the world. (Cook, 2009) I often hear my students talk about the different gang activities. It saddens me to see them wanting to fit in compromise important activities such as school, sports and family relationships. Along with gang and cartel violence, the juveniles in El Paso encounter additional risk factors. According to Almodovar (2006), border communities are at increased risk because of younger legal drinking ages (18 in Mexico) and the lax law enforcement such as in Mexico. El Paso high school students were more likely to have alcohol-related problems compared to US and other Texas high school students, and estimated 1500 underage drinkers cross the Paso Del Norte Bridge into Juarez, on any given weekend. (Almodovar, 2006)

Immigration and Crime

The role of immigration and its policy in border crime rates is important for many reasons. As a teacher, about 30 percent of my 200 students are kids crossing the border on a daily basis. About 15 percent live here with either a guardian or complete strangers and go home (Juarez) on the weekends. The effects of immigration play a huge role on kids like them. I was not able to find the exact number of students that cross the border to attend U.S schools, but my guess is that there is a large number of them, and the effect of immigration is undisputable.

The Southwest Border region is the main entry point for undocumented people smuggled from Mexico, Central America, and South America by Alien Smuggling Organizations (ASOs). These ASOs pay fees to Mexican DTOs to operate along specific routes in certain border areas. (NDIC 2010) Crime is not only costly to the victims, but also to taxpayers who fund police, courts, legal counsel and prisons to the tune of $167 billion (in 2001). (Coronado, 2007) The federal government constantly looks for ways to protect the border from threats such as smuggling and drug trafficking. The developments in drug trafficking are important since this is a significant source of violent crime. (Coronado, 2007) Most recently, Arizona said to have issue 532 National Guards troops to be placed on the border, California will be doing the same and will be placing 224 troops on its border. ( Coronado (2007) states that border enforcement on crime can deter crime by increasing the probability of detection and apprehension of criminals as well as increase in crime if it leads to more smuggling and smugglers commit other crimes.

El Paso Juveniles and Statistics

The numbers in my opinion are alarming. Considering the size of the city, and the amount of crime is a scary thought. Most recently in April 2011, law enforcements agencies were investigating possible drug sales near a high school located on the west side of town.( The west side, known to have more economically advantaged kids was the center of this investigation. The people that live in this are doctors, lawyers, and government officials among others from both Juarez and the U.S. It is no surprise that 6 teens were arrested during this operation, none of which students from that school. So why were these teens selling drugs in this prominent area? I believe it’s the basic rule of business, supply and demand. Someone in that area has the demand for the product (drugs), and there are the kids that are willing to supply it to make money. Yes, most kids that decided to be involved in these activities come from disadvantage families, and neighborhoods. The go to these nicer parts of town, because that is where the money is. The students I teach do not think about using drugs, but the amount of money they can make selling it. They dream about living the "luxurious lives" of the "Narco traffickers".

According to the Texas Juvenile Probation Department, the ages of juvenile justice jurisdiction are children between the ages of 10 through 16. ( According to recent statistics from the El Paso Juvenile Probation Department, more than "130,000" children who were picked up by law enforcement officers entered the juvenile justice system." (, 2011.) These children come from all social, racial and economic groups. "Nearly half are between 14 and 15 years of age, and about three-fourths are male." ( Like mentioned before, these kids are charged with minor offenses or "status offenses" such as truancy or running away from home. One-third are serious offenders who have committed crimes such as burglary, assault or murder. Substance abuse, family violence and school problems are common. (, 2011) According to the Juvenile Probation Department (JVProbation), there were 624 felonies in 2009, and 1,594 Misdemeanors A and B violations, which includes assault, weapons violation, theft, and drug offenses.


The war on drug has an effective on the youth in border cities, more specifically El Paso. Gang members, who offer them a "better" life, a life of money and fame, often lure these kids into doing criminal acts. The statics are alarming, and do not seem to be decreasing. Kids that come from economically disadvantaged families and areas are the targets for recruitments that lead them into a life of drugs, crimes, prison, and sometimes death. There is a huge focus on fighting the war on drugs, but we need not to forget the victims that are forgotten. The future leaders of these criminal and violent drug wars are being created, and not much is being done for them.