Those cities are Denver, Boulder, Colorado Springs, Grand Junction, and Longmont.
Sylvia Longmire, author of the book “Cartel: The Coming Invasion of Mexico‘s Drug Wars,” says the cartels mainly operate under the radar in Colorado, although they are believed to be responsible for much of the ongoing violence plaguing the border.
“What’s happening along the border is crucial for folks in Denver to understand because the cartels have a physical presence in Denver and they are trafficking the majority of the drugs that are circulating throughout the city,” Longmire said.
Longmire is a retired Air Force captain and former Special Agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. Longmire spent six years as a senior intelligence analyst in California who focused on Mexican drug trafficking organizations and border violence issues.
The cartels in the Denver metro area may not be directly involved in street-level drug sales, Longmire says, but they do control the distribution and management aspects of the drug trade in the city.
“They are providing drugs to local gang members, they are taking care of the distribution of drugs to warehouses, to stash houses throughout different communities in Denver, making sure that they are cut, re-packaged, then sent out to smaller communities outside of the Denver area,” Longmire said.
Longmire says Denver is strategically located because of the highway system. Drugs are often smuggled up I-25 from El Paso, Texas, placed in stash houses throughout the metro area, and then distributed to other cities and states.
“It’s just the way Denver is laid out that makes a perfect system for transporting drugs by private vehicles, commercial vehicles. It’s one of the top 7 hubs for drug trafficking activity,” Longmire said.
The Mexican city directly across from El Paso, Texas, Ciudad Juarez, has been hit especially hard by cartel violence in recent years, averaging 8 drug-related murders a day. Officials estimate since 2006, drug violence has killed more than 41-thousand people in Mexico, roughly the population of Littleton.
In March, an Aurora man became a victim of the violence when he was shot 80 times in front of his wife Tania and their young son. Jake, a US citizen, had moved his family to Mexico as his wife Tania applied for her green card. Tania and their son now live in Colorado, where Jake was buried.
In February, cartel members ambushed two US ICE agents on the highway between Mexico City and Monterrey. One of the agents was shot and killed. They were in Mexico helping deal with the violence.
“It’s a vicious, vicious cycle but what is happening there and happening here is very interconnected, Longmire said.
Occasionally, drug violence does flare up in Colorado. In September, Westminster Police began searching for a suspected Mexican cartel member believed to be responsible for a murder at the Toscana Apartment Complex.
A man was found dead inside his apartment. Police say the man was in the US illegally and was believed to be a member of a drug trafficking organization.
Jose Manuel Martinez-Adame is wanted for first degree murder. Martinez-Adame was given the name “Vampie” because his teeth are sharpened to look like a vampire.
Martinez-Adame was also believed to be in the United States illegally after being recently deported. Westminster Police say he has been arrested in the US multiple times., and may have since fled back to Mexico.