How Drug Smugglers Are Taking Advantage of the Texas Oil Boom

By David Brown and Rhonda FanningMay 21, 2014 4:52 pm

While fracking for oil along the Texas border has become a big business for petrol companies, a new entity seeks to tap into the lucrative market – drug smugglers.

As infrastructure and activity increases to meet the demand of the booming industry, drug smugglers are starting to take advantage of the new roads and increased traffic, much of which is located on private ranch lands.

“Because there are so many different companies, and so many different trucks going through that area, it provides a sort of way to blend in if you will,” National Journal writer Ben Geman tells The Texas Standard’s David Brown. “Essentially what’s happening is you’ve got smugglers who are stashing marijuana, or other drugs, in trucks that are either ‘cloned’ to look like one of the industry trucks, or some type of truck that seems to fit right in driving around on these ranch lands.”

The situation has fomented a new partnership between law enforcement and oil and gas companies as they seek to monitor the oil fields’ vast expanse. While smugglers may be able to use the fracking boom to their advantage now, that might not be the case for long.

Historically, industry and law enforcement have operated independently of one another, Geman says, but concerns at the border are changing that. A new program called the Integrated Frontline Resources Awareness Campaign (iFRAC) aims to better communicate suspicious activity and address safety concerns for workers.

Through this partnership, the Border Patrol hopes to counteract the advantages the oil boom’s afforded drug smugglers.

“I was chatting with a border patrol agent … and he made the point, it’s the yin to the yang,” Geman explains. “On the one hand, all of these new or newly paved roads on private ranch land are providing some new conduits and new avenues for drug smugglers. On the other hand, you’ve got more eyes and ears out there in the field, that several years ago didn’t exist in the same way.”