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A warning every parent needs to know about: Mexican drug cartels are targeting teenagers.

Posted at 9:27 AM, May 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-12 10:27:58-04

WACO, TX — Law enforcement says the cartels are recruiting teens to work as smugglers.

The cartels are reaching them through social media.

Drugs, luxury cars, bling, and cold hard cash.

This is not an episode of 'Cops.' This is TikTok.

The social media app is wildly popular with teens.

"Tik Tok is the really big one right now," Waco Police Officer Garen Bynum tells 25 News.

You don't even need an account to watch.

Search for #carteltiktok and you'll find tons of videos and photos glorifying the drug cartel lifestyle.

Waco Police are sending out a warning to parents.

"We need to be paying attention to what our kids are doing," Bynum says.

Two separate callers from Waco to the 25 Newsroom, too afraid to speak on camera, fearing for the safety of their family, say their teens were directly contacted by cartel operatives.
According to Border Patrol, cartels are offering to pay teens as drivers to smuggle drugs.

Social media gives the cartels direct access to teens through their phones.
"You have full access to that phone," Bynum says.

As he points out these criminal organizations are not just across the border, they're here too. "They're not only everywhere within our state. They're nationwide. They're worldwide. You need to be paying attention to what your kids are doing."

As a parent himself, Bynum monitors his own kids' online activity.

"Who are they talking with? Do you know that person? Do they know that person? Are they even from that town? You know, are just some of the things that we can do as parents to try and negate that criminal world from trying to reach our most valued assets, our kids."

WPD intelligence officers are also monitoring this type of social media activity which could be enticing to a teenager who's looking for easy money.
Drug smuggling is a federal crime which can lead to years in prison and a record for life.

If you believe a cartel or gang is trying to recruit your child, report it to police so they can take action.