More than 5,000 young people in San Diego, most of them Hispanics accused of being involved in street gangs, have been held in confinement by the city’s corrections system during the past two years.
Most of the crimes are associated with assaults, robbery, drug trafficking or consumption, since according to the authorities, being near the border also makes the youths easy targets for Mexican cartels that recruit them to smuggle drugs.
Pedro Ríos, an activist with the San Diego office of the American Friends Service Committee, told Efe on Tuesday that the situation is particularly prevalent at high schools in the southern part of the county, which is fertile terrain for recruiting U.S.-born Hispanics who can cross the border with little difficulty.
“The traffickers pay them around $400 per trip carrying drugs, but we have also seen them get involved in human trafficking, generally picking the people up on this side of the border and taking them to safe houses,” he said.
A report by the San Diego Association of Governments, or SANDAG, notes the positive results of San Diego County’s 2000 Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Act, adopted in response to a sharp rise in youth violence during the 1990s.
According to SANDAG, among the youths interviewed in San Diego County detention facilities, 11 percent said that at some time they have been asked to transport drugs over the border, with their first crossing at the average age of 14.