School police officers train to fight border crime

McALLEN — Six of the seven Mexican drug cartels have established command and control in Texas and are recruiting at schools across the state, San Juan Police Chief Juan Gonzalez said Thursday at the School-Based Law Enforcement Summit.

For the first time since the annual summit began almost 40 years ago, school police officers spent an entire day focused on border crimes, including sex trafficking of students.

“It was important for us to make this possible because this is about our children and their livelihood,” said Sylvia Cruz, director of security and risk management for the Mission school district, which paid for the extra day of training.

Nearly 200 officers learned about human trafficking, teen suicide, and transnational criminal organizations, among other issues during the four-day summit.

Organized by the Texas State University Institute for Criminal Justice Studies (ICJS), the summit gives officers the chance to earn up to 32 of the 40 training hours mandated by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement every two years.

Last year, they trained about 1,000 peace officers and have more than 1,200 already registered this year.

The summits aim at providing free research-based training focused on law enforcement issues at both the K-12 and higher education levels, said Joe Muñoz, program manager at the ICJS.

“There’s a wealth of information that we are giving the participants,” Muñoz said. “From gang intervention to mental health expansion, to inappropriate relationships, we are giving them the tools they need to help these kiddos.”

A major focus of this year’s training dealt with domestic sex trafficking and how to detect children who are being targeted by human traffickers, who often use technology to recruit and prey on children with vulnerabilities including those lacking family support.

The average age of children recruited into forced prostitution is 11-14 years old, according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC).

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