Special Report: Drug Cartel Influenced Crime low in Yuma County
YUMA, Ariz. (13 On Your Side) - It's an ongoing debate between politicians: border security.
The Department Of Homeland Security points to research which shows the border is more secure today than ever before.
But Republicans, who want more security at the border in exchange for immigration reform, said drug cartel violence is spilling over into the U.S. and getting worse.
13 On Your Side wanted to know what local law enforcement at front line of defense have to say about border violence spilling over.
In Mexico, tens of thousands have been murdered, including children, reporters and police officers.
The violent drug war has forced the U.S. to shift its strategy from focusing almost entirely on stopping illegal immigrants to stopping drug cartel violence from spilling over.
But is the enforcement strategy working?
We went on a ride-a-long with a Yuma County Narcotics Task Force Deputy.
Because he is involved with going after drug dealers and traffickers for safety reasons we will not show you his face.
By the time we arrived deputies had already pulled over the driver.
A K-9 also sniffed out the car but did not detect any drugs.
Meanwhile, only minutes away at the Wellton Border Patrol checkpoint, agents busted a man from San Luis smuggling $6,000 dollars of marijuana in his truck.
We asked Yuma County Sheriff's Captain Eben Bratcher if drug cartel violence is spilling over as some politicians claim it is.
"The reality is though that direct cartel involvement in any of that crime in Yuma County is extremely low," Bratcher said.
According to a recent report by the Government Accountability Office, violent crime in Yuma County has dropped 32 percent in 2010 compared to 2007.
"I would say that 90 percent of the property crime, personal crime, etc. that occurs in Yuma County is some manner linked to drugs either directly or indirectly," Bratcher said.
While drugs have a direct link to drug cartels, there's no sure way to accurately link all violent crime on the U.S. side to Mexican drug cartels.
One reason is that the U.S. and Mexico rarely share sensitive information.
Police said Mexican drug cartels keep their hands clean by having other people do the dirty work for them.
Instead they have mid-level suppliers on the Mexican side of the border who often smuggle drugs into smaller quantities and then they sell locally.
Along the border in San Luis, Sergeant Victor Figueroa agrees law enforcement--from U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers, U.S. Border Patrol, FBI and DEA agents, to local police and sheriff's deputies--offer increased layers of protection that have kept drug cartel violence from spilling over.
"Yes, crime has dropped with all the security that went up," Figueroa said.
"It's something that we work very hard to prevent from becoming a problem," Bratcher said.
Since 2006, more than 60,000 people have been killed in Mexico in a nearly-continuous string of shootouts, bombings, and ever-bloodier murders.
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