Video: Mexico’s ‘war next door’ is closer than you think
Transcript of: Mexico’s ‘war next door’ is closer than you think
LESTER HOLT, anchor: his continuing series of reports about THE WAR NEXT DOOR , NBC 's Mark Potter has the story of an American city that finds itself under siege as a crossroads in this bloody drug trade .
MARK POTTER reporting: A few weeks ago when Mexican authorities arrested "La Barbie," the reputed drug kingpin feared for his viciousness, right away officials in Atlanta said they wanted the first crack at putting him on trial because Atlanta is where La Barbie is already charged with distributing tons of cocaine.
Mr. DANNY PORTER (Gwinnett County District Attorney): It's possible that there are more drugs that have come through Gwinnett County and Atlanta than ever came through Miami during the -- during the '80s, during the time of the " Miami Vice " idea.
POTTER: Drug agents say Mexican cartels, which are fighting a brutal war south of the border , have now penetrated 270 US cities . But it is Atlanta that is their major smuggling hub, with hundreds of Mexican traffickers operating there. In this neighborhood near Atlanta with its well-kept homes and quiet streets, US drug agents make a shocking discovery. In a basement, a kidnapped drug dealer chained and beaten by members of a Mexican drug cartel .
Mr. RODNEY BENSON (Atlanta DEA Special Agent in Charge): Look around. Quiet, tree-lined street, you know, hardworking people here going to work every day, raising families, and next door you have members of the Gulf Cartel torturing somebody for not paying on a drug shipment.
POTTER: Hardest hit is Gwinnett County , northeast of Atlanta . Because of its large Hispanic population, authorities say, Mexican traffickers easily blend in. The reason the Mexican traffickers are so attracted to the Atlanta area is the same reason many legitimate corporations are here. The web of interstate highways going in and out makes Atlanta the Southeast 's most important transportation hub . Mexicans smuggling drugs across the US border truck their loads to Atlanta for repackaging before driving them north to cities along the Eastern Seaboard .
Mr. BENSON: We'll see that load of drugs in a tractor trailer arrive at the truck stop, be escorted typically to a warehouse. As you can see, there's a sea of warehouses out there.
POTTER: Authorities first realized they had a big problem nine years ago when a George state patrol car was rammed by Mexican smugglers guarding a drug shipment. In this Gwinnett County home, agents found a huge Mexican methamphetamine lab. And down this dirt road, hidden from the street, they found another house with millions of dollars in Mexican drug cash. But it's the soaring amount of Mexican heroin and other drugs flooding the streets that has Mary Rieser , director of Georgia 's Narconon Treatment Center , fearing what she calls death by injection.
Ms. MARY RIESER: There's a syringe instead of a gun, but people are definitely dying at this end of the war on drugs or the Mexican cartel.
POTTER: Mexican traffickers now firmly entrenched across America among unsuspecting neighbors.