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Police in rural and suburban areas around the country are reporting finding drugs, money and guns linked to Mexican drug cartels, CNN reports.

Southeastern North Carolina, a largely rural area, has seen a growing number of cartel-related drug busts, according to Drug Enforcement Administration agent Michael Franklin. Cartel operatives use the area’s growing Latino community as cover, according to the news report.

“While the majority of (Latino residents in the area) are hardworking people like anyone else, it’s an opportunity for the cartels to have their foot soldiers do their thing, too,” Franklin said.

The problem could grow bigger. According to the Justice Department’s National Drug Intelligence Center, Mexican cartels control distribution of most of the methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana coming into the country.

Mexican drug cartels operated in 1,286 U.S. cities in 2009 and 2010, more than five times the number in 2008, according to CNN.

Quantities of meth being moved north from Mexico into the United States are increasing. Last year, U.S. agents brought in 20,000 pounds of meth on the southwest border, double the amount seized in 2008. Agents say street prices for meth are either staying flat or decreasing, a sign that there is an abundant supply.

The United States passed the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act in 2005, which made it more difficult for meth makers to obtain the cold medicine ingredients pseudoephedrine and ephedrine that are used to make meth. While U.S. production of the drug decreased, Mexican production soared.

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