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Cartels go after female recruits who often avoid jail time

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KINNEY COUNTY, Texas (NewsNation) — The majority of human and drug smugglers are men from the U.S. but lately, Mexican cartels are now recruiting a new demographic to help with their efforts: women.

The Texas Department of Public Safety released a new video on Monday showing a woman allegedly attempting to flirt with a state trooper who pulled her over to avoid arrest. Troopers found two immigrants from El Salvador being smuggled in her car.

Officials said situations like these are becoming more frequent as more women are getting involved in the cartel’s schemes, leveling the playing field but with an advantage — no jail time.

In Kinney County, Texas, women who are caught smuggling undocumented individuals are released instead of spending time in jail for the Class 3 felony, all due to a lack of funding and facilities.

Kinney County Sheriff Brad Coe said at least 20 women have been arrested and released on a personal recognizance bond in the county for border-related state crimes this month alone. They also face a $5,000 fine if they don’t show up for their hearing. But Coe said those alleged smugglers are sometimes caught smuggling again while they wait to see a judge.

“We picked up one earlier this month — she was picked up in Webb County for smuggling, she had 16 counts against her there,” Coe said. “We caught her in Kinney County with five or six, so yeah, she’s a double banger for sure. But now she’s not the first one, won’t be the last one.”

Men and women committing these crimes could be sentenced to up to two years in jail. Coe said at least 15 to 20 percent of their arrests are women.

Officials pleaded for help and those calls are being answered. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has committed to creating a facility with up to 300 beds to house female criminals in the area, and Coe believes having that facility open by the end of next month will have a big impact on the uptick in female smugglers.

“If we can get the governor can open up this facility, and when we start going there, I think in a matter of 30 days, we may have a lot of the women’s problems solved. Because women’s facilities are just in bad shape as men’s facilities, and I think we will see a decline,” Coe said.

Coe said he has to send most inmates, including men, to neighboring counties as they can only hold people for 72 hours. The closest county that affords them beds is roughly two and a half hours away.

This leads them to stretch resources for transportation, as they’re short-staffed. Coe said that transporting takes most of the day for one deputy.

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