(NewsNation) — The picturesque Oregon Coast may seem a world away from the drug cartels in Mexico, but even tourist towns such as Seaside have become a hotspot for the powerful Jalisco cartel.
Locals in the community of fewer than 8,000 people, which is known for its historic promenade, say the cartel’s impact has been devastating.
Jessica Reed is a Seaside native who says the local drug issue is an open secret. She blames a cartel-fueled drug supply for turning her once-upstanding ex-husband into an addict.
“Our next ever phone call may be that he’s dead,” Reed said. “It took six cans of Narcan to bring him back to life…He was in a coma for four days before he woke up and he had no memory of it.”
Reed’s daughter, Hannah Bryan, said she misses who her dad used to be.
“It’s just frustrating because that has taken my entire dad away from me,” Bryan said. “I don’t get to have that dad anymore.”
It’s no secret that cartels operate in many popular tourist areas throughout Mexico. The issue has prompted numerous warnings from the U.S. State Department. But now, the fear is that American tourist spots could be next.
Seaside Mayor Steve Wright is reluctant to discuss the town’s seedier side.
He believes drug trafficking in the area is not pervasive after an extensive crackdown and bust by the Clatsop County sheriff in 2017.
“We tried and convicted the people that were involved,” Wright said. “The I-5 corridor is over there and you can’t help some of the stuff that’s going to come out of that, it’s just an unavoidable part of trying to keep this a safe and nurturing community.”
A series of raids several years ago hauled in dozens of suspects and large amounts of meth and fentanyl. The investigation also uncovered links between the local drug supply and its network — stretching to Mexico’s Jalisco New Generation Cartel and its leader, known as “El Mencho.”
Oregon crime statistics show drug offenses are up 51% in Seaside compared to last year. Burglary and weapons violations have also risen over the past year, up 66% and 85% respectively.
Reed thinks the small coastal town has become an easy target for drug traffickers due to the community’s limited resources.
“We have less police presence, less funding for those kinds of things,” she said. “We don’t have a drug task force anymore.”
According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Jalisco and Sinaloa cartels supply the vast majority of illegal drugs such as fentanyl in the United States. Much of it is now winding up in unsuspecting, quiet communities like Seaside.