Cartel controllers operating on our streets may be killers in Mexico, but local investigators say the criminals keep a lower profile in Austin. They said you may never notice a cartel operative.
“What the public needs to know is that the presence does exist, but for the cartels to achieve carrying out their illicit activities, they’re going to want to try to fit in with the rest of the public,” said Lt. Kurt Thomas, Austin Police Department.
Thomas said cartel controllers, who are willing to commit illegal acts such as drug distribution, can also have ties to extortion, robberies.
“The law enforcement needs the community,” said Tony Garcia, Director for South Texas HIDTA. “We need them to police themselves and we need them to tell us what they’re seeing.”
It's hard. Some community members are like Miguel Linares may never see it unless they look for it.
“We’re changing the transmission,” said the body shop owner as he stood over his latest customer’s car.
He slowly smoked a cigarette while turning bolts on the car.
Linares owns a business along South Congress, near Stassney Lane. The shop has deep roots in Austin. He told us it dates back three decades.
Outside is a food truck, which was a taco stand in 2009.
A man was killed at that stand while ordering food. Texas DPS lists the death as a “cartel-related murder.”
It doesn’t concern Linares.
“Not at all. Not at all,” he said. “The way I see it is that there is a onetime problem. It’s like, I don’t see it connected to the cartel.”