Gangs Using Social Media for Recruitment

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WESLACO – It is no secret gangs are operating in the Rio Grande Valley. They have a presence from Starr to Cameron counties.

They are not just growing in numbers on the streets and in prisons. They’re reaching into homes and recruiting kids.

About 330 of the inmates serving a sentence at Cameron County Jail are gang members. Sheriff Omar Lucio said it’s easy to tell them apart.

“Sometimes we have the tattoos, we identify them. Or, we ask them if they belong to a specific group, and they usually tell you,” said Lucio.

Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Division, Chief Joel Rivera said they’ve identified over 5000 gang members operating in the Valley over the past two years.

“Cartels leverage gangs to be able to do some of the work that they need done. So, human smuggling, human trafficking, narcotics trafficking, theft of vehicles, burglaries, things of that nature,” said Rivera.

Texas Department of Public Safety believes gangs in the Valley are the most dangerous in the state.

Tango Blast and Cliques, Latin Kings and the Texas Mexican Mafia are what the DPS consider the top three gangs posing significant threats in the state and they’re all in the Valley. The evidence is everywhere.

If anyone is concerned about gangs in your community, don’t just look at walls like this for signs of their presence. Law enforcement recommends you also check your child’s social media walls.

DPS finds members of these criminal organizations are posting and advertising their lifestyle.

“Although they have some expectation of privacy, parents may look at their children’s social media accounts. We strongly encourage parents to take an active role in their children’s life and look at what they’re doing on social media,” said Rivera.

When scrolling through their feed, look closely at the details.

Rivera has some suggestions for concerned parents on what to look for, “You’re looking at messages, photos that glorify certain aspects of gangs. So, maybe gang signs, colors, tattoos, things of that nature that can tip off towards recruitment, gang recruitment.”

Sheriff Lucio advises a more traditional approach.

“They need to keep track to see of where the kids are at all times, who their friends are, who do they have about with. Try to find out where they hang out,” he said.

Both officials believe close monitoring can prevent your child from ending up in jail.

Hidalgo County has one of three Texas anti-gang centers in the state. Many of these gangs are committing transnational crime.

Rivera said they will soon be opening a Texas transnational intelligence crime center. They’ll be working with other law enforcement agencies to continue combating gang activity.

Below is a DPS report shows social media is being used by gangs to make threats and incite violence against law enforcement agents.

Texas Public Safety Threat Overview 2017

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