Do you drive a vehicle coveted by Mexican cartels south of the Texas border? One-ton diesel trucks were the preferred choice for gunmen before the next rolling shootout. Today, cartels are opting for speed and maneuverability with smaller pickups and family SUVs.
In 1994, auto theft rings targeting Texas vehicles became such a problem that the Department of Public Safety organized the Border Auto-Theft Intelligence Center (BATIC) in El Paso to better work with Mexican authorities.
Vehicles targeted for theft in Texas cities are lighter in the modern era. Stolen trucks are geared toward specific applications as cartel violence escalates throughout Mexico. Clandestine auto shops in the border state of Tamaulipas are adapting to build sophisticated armored vehicles with mounted weapons platforms for battle against rivals and authorities.
One-ton and three-quarter-ton pickups with diesel engines were the trucks of choice due to their ability to handle the extra armor weight with added horsepower. In Nuevo Laredo, the Cartel del Noreste (CDN) faction of Los Zetas cartel is demonstrating a new preference for half-tons. One gunman previously said they learned mobility in a shootout is a matter of life and death. Recent seizures by Mexican authorities validate these claims after a cell known as “Tropa del Infierno” (Troop of Hell) used the lighter half-ton trucks with slide-in armor packages and weapon-mounted platforms.
Cartels are proving increasingly capable of improving mobility, defenses, and firepower against rival groups and even state police forces. Since money is readily available and gunmen require a constant supply of stolen vehicles to support their paramilitary activities, armored trucks are part and parcel of their strategy.
Jaeson Jones is a retired Captain from the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Intelligence and Counterterrorism Division and a Breitbart Texas contributor. While on duty, he managed daily operations for the Texas Rangers Border Security Operations Center.