SIERRA VISTA, Ariz. - Arizona border counties have been at the center of battles over smuggling and illegal immigration.
Friday, the Cochise County Sheriff held a briefing for the public to let them know about some innovative strategies that he says are making a difference.
Sheriff Mark Dannels says the people of Cochise County can not wait for the Federal government to solve the problems for boded counties like Cochise so he’s trying some new ideas.
He was able to catch images of smugglers at work by placing surveillance cameras along smuggling corridors. The sheriff says immigrants who peacefully turn themselves in to Border Patrol and ask for asylum are more common in other border counties. He says what deputies see in Cochise is still mostly smugglers moving drugs.
“This is what we got going on in our county. You got a lot of violent people coming through our county, folks. We really do. This is what we’re after in my county.”
Deputies found teenagers maybe 16 or 17 years old were the drug mules, moving a lot of the drugs. The cartels had told them as juveniles, they’d avoid serious punishment.
Cochise County Attorney Brian McIntyre says they might find 29 teen aged drug mules every six months.
They began prosecutions that routinely put the drug mules in state prison for 18 months. The word spread and arrests dropped to one or two per six month period.
“And now the cartel knows and the cartel has stopped attempting to use our county in this fashion with the exception of the odd occasion. My thought is if you run a program like this and you get a one, or a two is someone ran a test to see if we still care.”
Sheriff’s Sergeant Tim Williams designed the camera system. He showed how smugglers who used to wear regular clothes no wear elaborate camouflage to avoid detection.
“This individual who is a human smuggler is covered head to toe. There’s no exposed skin at all on his body even as a face mask and down there at the bottom you can see its only 50 degrees so they’re doing it to kind of stay under the radar.”
And Sheriff Dannels says he’s been sharing his strategies with other departments and law enforcement on the Federal level.