Fear and Drug Cartels in Las Vegas

By McCarton Ackerman 08/07/12

Officials claim Mexico's traffickers are infiltrating Sin City, using it as a "stepping stone" to sell drugs to the East.

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They call it "Sin City" for a reason. Law enforcement officials claim that Mexican drug cartels are now working to establish a direct foothold in Vegas and are using it as a stepping stone to sell mass quantities of drugs to the East. Although the majority of drugs entering the US still come through Phoenix or Southern California, there has been a marked increase in drugs coming through Vegas. Kent Bitsko, executive director of a Nevada-based interagency drug task force, says within the last 18 months there were five instances of direct contact between the region's drug traffickers and Mexican cartels—indicating a step rise in the last several years of cartel-related drug activity. “The only time we will say cartel involvement is when they have the ability to call directly to Mexico and arrange their narcotics to come up here,” he said. Last year, task forces seized more than $66 million in drugs in Southern Nevada—more than double the amount seized in 2010, according to authorities. Most of the confiscated drugs consisted of cocaine, marijuana, heroin and meth. “We’ve done search warrants on homes and found (more than) 100 pounds of meth,” said Lt. Laz Chavez of Metro Police's narcotics section. “There’s no way that much can be sold just in Las Vegas.” Vegas police hope to avoid any cartel violence from occurring in their city, with Bitsko claiming that other US cities, including Phoenix and San Diego, have seen a recent increase in cartel-related kidnappings. “We just want to do whatever we can to keep that from happening,” said Chavez.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.