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The Evolution of Security Threat Groups into the Twenty-First Century - Part II
By William Sturgeon
Published: 08/31/2009

Machine gun Los Zetas are an extremely violent, very well trained, Security Threat Group whose origins are rooted in the Mexican Army’s Airborne Special Forces Unit. All of the their original members have completed highly specialized skills and are now using them for criminal purposes, primarily drug smuggling, kidnappings, extortion, and gun dealing, etc. The Los Zetas, in my opinion, have raised the level of gang violence to a new intensity on the street and in correctional institutions.

The Los Zetas have been on an unchecked killing and crime spree along the Mexican border for several years. The Los Zetas have begun to spread their extreme violence and criminal influence across the Mexican border into the United States and into Central and South America. According to news reports, the Los Zetas have spread as far as Atlanta, GA, and Nashville, TN

The Los Zetas and other Mexican drug cartels have infiltrated various Border States to such a degree that they have turned Phoenix, AZ, into the kidnapping capital of the country. Phoenix has also experienced a significant rise in home invasions.

The point that I am trying to make here is that the “official” borders separating the United States and Mexico means NOTHING to the Mexican drug cartels: MS 13, Los Zetas, and other STGs. Governments recognize the ‘official’ borders and consider them sacrosanct and do everything possible not to violate them.

American law enforcement, correctional facilities and courthouses, will, in my opinion have to be hardened and increase the intensity of their security operations. Additionally, agencies will have to up-armor their vehicles, increase their firepower and re-design their facilities. In addition, street police officers and SWAT officers will have to, in my opinion, begin utilizing more military tactics in their day-to-day operations.

Corrections and Security Threat Groups are Evolving and Going Through a Metamorphosis

The Los Zetas, I believe, have ratcheted-up the level of Security Threat Groups violence. Security Threat Groups (Gangs) started out years ago using their fists to solve disputes, then evolved to bats, chains, pipes, then Zip-Guns and knives, then to guns, and now have evolved to beheadings, torture, kidnapping, senseless killing of innocent children and adults. These tactics, in my opinion, more closely resemble those of terrorists than criminals.

The Los Zetas have incorporated all of the specialized “Military” skills they learned at Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (formally School of the Americas) into sophisticated and violent criminal practices. The Zetas have perfected their tactics and skills on the streets of Mexican cities and towns.

As more members of Mexican drug cartels, particularly the Los Zetas, become incarcerated, the local, state and federal correctional facilities will have to enhance the level of their day-to-day security and operational practices as well as emergency procedures. To misjudge the security risk that the Los Zetas, MS-13, etc. present to correctional facilities is a serious blunder.

The original members of the Los Zetas who were trained by the United State have taken it upon themselves to recruit and train new members. Now, the Los Zetas have a significant number of people and present a significant threat to the Mexican military and police and other law enforcement agencies.

We in the criminal justice world (law enforcement, corrections, and detention facilities both adult and juvenile) consider the Los Zetas and MS13, etc., as criminals. While they are criminals, they are also highly trained military personnel who have been trained to kill, intimidate, kidnap, gather intelligence, and use to tactics for escape and for and evading capture – They are much more dangerous than the average criminal.

The Zetas combative ethos, training and their propensity to use extreme violence to intimidate their enemies will, I believe, force the other gangs to respond in-kind or be assumed into or eliminated by the Zetas. The Zetas have upped the ante for other gangs (Street and Prison) to compete for turf, drugs, guns, members, respect and, most important, money.

The Zetas and their cohorts MS13, etc., are the catalysts for the next evolution of gangs. These gangs will be trained and will resort to the extreme violence that we see being manifested on the streets of Mexican, Central, South American and American cities. I believe that the foreign based gangs, however, will strengthen their relationships with other foreign groups, ranging from organized criminal groups to terrorists as this century progresses.

Gangs /Security Threat Groups continue to evolve even as I write this article – the Southern Poverty Law Center is saying that there has been an increase in White Supremacist groups.

Intelligence, surveillance, comprehensive planning and coordination among criminal justice agencies, decisive action, with prosecution by experienced prosecutors, I believe, is the formula for dealing with the Security Threat Groups of the Twenty-First Century.

1. Mexican Drug Commandos, INFOWARS.COM, May 2005, http://www.infowars.com/articles/worl/mexican_drug_commandos.

Part I - The Evolution of Security Threat Groups into the Twenty-First Century

Visit the Bill Sturgeon page


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  2. warden on 09/01/2009:

    Throughout the criminal justice system STG's are flourishing. The gang culture in prisons is expanding to county jails at an ever increasing rate, which means it returns to the streets and grows stronger as Corrections endeavors to promote Re-Entry throughout the system. Early identification of these individuals and communication between agencies is essential for control within the institutions. Outside, knowing who is who is a leg up, but they are not controlled within four walls. What is the answer? Wish I knew!

  3. centella on 08/26/2009:

    Many times we are complaining about how this types of groups works, but Most the time we are responsible for the action and rules of this group, the Violence promoted by the government and other authorities, which well Know how they work and where they are and not action being taken at all to eradicated The way on which this prototype groups work, Afraid to take action, government Promote that kind of people without a proper background and investigation.

  4. K500 on 08/26/2009:

    I thought only the leftists blamed School of the Americas for all of the evils of Latin America, i.e., right wing dictatorships. Now you are blaming them for "beheadings, torture, kidnapping, senseless killing of innocent children and adults." The U.S. military has never taught such subjects at School of the Americas. It and its successor, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, have, in fact placed much emphasis on teaching the Rules of War and the value of democratic principles.

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