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Special Report: Dirty Little Secret
WESLACO - Within 13 square miles, 12 crack houses are uncovered.
“They’re rental homes. They’re nice, decent homes,” an undercover Weslaco police officer said. The homes were down the street from an elementary school.
Less than a mile from Weslaco High School, a city park and a Christian Academy lived a drug dealer. And two feet away from the drugs and pistols slept a little girl.
“If it’s something very big they’ll call us out,” the officer said.
Side-by-side is two newly assigned officers that are working to expose the Rio Grande Valley’s dirty little secret. “It’s called the Special Crimes Unit and we handle mostly narcotics and some of the gang intel,” one of the officers said. “For us, it’s a little bit overwhelming because now that people know and it’s been publicized that the unit’s out here, people are flooding us with information. Which is good.”
Each tip passed along is investigated, like one case in particular. “They were running a crack house. Actually, running two crack houses,” the officer said.
One on 4th, the other in the heart of the city and both were busted recently. “A lot of the neighbors that were already tired of them doing a lot of the crack cocaine,” the officer recalled.
The undercover duo just went back for more. “Do you got eyes on the house,” one officer said during their surveillance.
Their eyes were on a new location, near children. Police think a man nearby is a scout paid to be on the lookout.
“Some of them will just pass by and look inside the vehicles. They’ll get the plates and if they have, unfortunately if they have friends in law enforcement, they’ll call them up and give them the plate and run it,” one officer told CHANNEL 5 NEWS.
Crack cocaine runs through the Valley and it’s not bulky like dope. “People become addicted to it much faster than like marijuana,” the officer said. “So there’s a dependence on the drug. It sells quick, it moves quick.”
The biggest bundles are busted at border bridges. Police seize much smaller loads.
According to one of the undercover officers, crack cocaine is difficult to smell unless it’s burned in large quantities. Investigators said many crack dealers are independent. They don’t need to work with cartels to make money.
“Their sellers were turning in $600 to $700 a day,” the officer told us. There doesn’t appear to be an exact profile for sellers. Police have arrested females in their 30’s and 40’s. The illegal business doesn’t discriminate against gender, age or status.
Police targeted a husband and wife in a home that was under surveillance. Authorities seized their DVR during previous raids. The recording device was connected to security cameras inside the crack house.
With a warrant, they watched the video. They saw drug deals happen while a 1-year-old and 4-year-old were in the home.
Officer: How’s it going?
Woman: How’s it going? What’s going on?
Officer: I have a warrant for your arrest.
Woman: For me?
Woman: What did I do with my kids? That’s what I want to know.
Officer: We’ve got the video on the DVD-R. You selling crack cocaine. That’s all I know.
Woman: Oh my God.
The couple was identified as Rolando Ruiz and Kimberly Gutierrez. Each are facing two counts of child endangerment.
Drug addicts will break into homes and cars. However, they don’t pawn what they steal. They trade it for drugs. And those deals sometimes happen in seconds.
Junkies are known to swallow the few grams of crack they buy. So building cases against dealers takes time. The new narcotics unit relies on informants to make drug buys.
A police informant named “Mike” has been working with them after years of drug use. “I started when I was at least 14. I was young and grew up around the wrong crowd,” he said. “There’s been a lot of home invasions and drive-by shootings and a lot of drug seizures by pseudo cops. They’ll come after you if you steal their product or if you try to pay with counterfeit bills.”
In one instance, we listened as an informant tried for 20 minutes to buy crack. “De yeyo or what? Some coke,” one potential dealer said. “You need some coke,” the other said.
In the undercover audio, the potential dealer bragged about being a Valluco. He called out crack houses in Donna and Edinburg.
Their informant didn’t buy drugs that day.
“You know, it was taking too long. Usually a buy takes less than a minute,” one officer said. “We’ll come next week and we’ll try again.”
And police did go back to the suspected crack house. Four people were busted with marijuana and cocaine. Investigators said they believed they supplied drugs to an apartment complex.
The two narcotics officers are working to pass a number of cases over to the district attorney. According to Weslaco's records, police hadn't turned a drug case over to prosecutors since 2012.
Little by little, one city is working to expose the Valley’s dirty little secret.