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Criminals Use Emergency Situations as Opportunities

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MCALLEN – In emergency situations, the focus is saving lives. But a cartel and gang expert says criminals have a different mindset.

Rio Grande Valley and state first responders were able to learn or be reminded of what the cartels and gangs are thinking during emergency situations. An expert says crooks want to use an emergency situation as a weakness and exploit their next move during a victim’s time of need.

Weslaco homeowner Bianca Barajas was in a major flood last year. She says many questions come to mind during an emergency.

“Our biggest concern was the water flooding, and how is the truck going to work or is the car going to be able to get through. It’s just trying to get home,” says Barajas.

She says, however, the thought about how criminals can take advantage never crossed her mind. 

“I actually never had a second thought about that because I thought I always felt safe. But I never even though that is a big opportunity for them,” she says.

Maryanne Denner, a gang and cartel expert, has built a relationship with some criminal organizations. She’s worked in this type of field for 30 years.

She says criminals do have their own disaster plan.

“In some cases, if they do have to evacuate they need to let people in charge them know where they’re at to look for crimes of opportunities,” she explains.

Denner says the illegal activity continues after the disaster, too.

“We looked at the increase in drugs to come back and build that supply that was lost, and there was an increase of human trafficking and the sex trafficking,” she explains.

Barajas says she’ll think differently now.

“I think even if they open up that conversation to a bigger community, I think it would brighten everyone’s view on it,” she says.

Denner says she hopes this gives people another outlook to help save their lives from a disaster or other wanting to take advantage.

She warns another crime to look out for in the rebuild or recovery stage is property theft.

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