#1 Tired of Waiting for a Federal Fix, Border Sheriff Tackles Cartel Crime With Bold Action by algernonpj 17.06.2019 12:02


Tired of Waiting for a Federal Fix, Border Sheriff Tackles Cartel Crime With Bold Action
By Charlotte Cuthbertson
June 12, 2019 Updated: June 13, 2019

BISBEE, Arizona—Tired of waiting for the federal government to fix the border, Sheriff Mark Dannels decided to take matters into his own hands. A personal run-in with a Mexican cartel only cemented his motivation to rid his county of cross-border crime.

Five years ago, Dannels’s son, Sierra Vista police officer Justin Dannels, fatally shot a man allegedly connected to the Sinaloa cartel when the man tried to run him over during a traffic stop.

The following day, Dannels and his son both received threatening phone calls from Mexico. Then cartel members showed up in the sheriff’s backyard at midnight.

“Hell of a scary. But, I’ll tell you, if you run from them, you’re no better than they are,” Dannels said on May 5.

“Long story short is, we really took a deep look at what we were doing here and that’s one of the reasons that we said, ‘You ain’t going to threaten us, and you’re not going to scare us out of what we need to do,’” he said. “That’s one of the reasons we’ve pushed forward.”

Instead of capitulating, Dannels doubled down on ridding his county of cartel activity and cross-border crime. Cochise County in southeast Arizona is now one of the most secure of the 31 counties along the southwest border. It is a rare success story amid an unprecedented border crisis that is overwhelming the system.
border security

The major new effort started in January 2017 and the formula Dannels adopted is simple: Place hundreds of cameras to detect traffickers and smugglers, catch them, and prosecute them.

“We put our cameras in areas where Border Patrol wasn’t going,” he said. “We went to the river areas, we went into the mountain areas, we went to the desert areas. And this is based on intel from our ranchers and our community folks saying, ‘We have a problem on our property.’ We’ve gone to private lands and we put those cameras strategically in areas where it helps identify the smugglers.”

The sheriff’s border team, called SABRE (Southeastern Arizona Border Region Enforcement), run by Sgt. Tim Williams, has placed 400 trail cameras in the county so far—with an estimated 700 to be up and running by year’s end.

The money for the cameras was raised from private donations—Dannels refuses to accept government money, with strings attached, to expand the program.

The SABRE team piloted a test on rancher John Ladd’s land that shares 10.5 miles of border with Mexico border—from the Naco international port of entry to the San Pedro River (which runs from Mexico into the United States).

The border line has a legacy bollard fence from 2006 that contains several sets of floodgates embedded into the bottom of it that are left open from July 1 to October 1 every year. When open, the gates leave four gaps, each about 7 feet high and 6 feet wide. The fence stops altogether at the river.

“The biggest thing that we dealt with was backpacking drugs—the 50- to 70-pound bundles on the back,” Dannels said. He said countywide, Ladd’s ranch was probably the most impacted by smuggling, but the pilot program brought it to a halt.

“There were 37 experienced smugglers [on his property] that are now sitting in prison,” Dannels said.

Seeing immediate success, the program continued to expand and became fully operational in August 2017.

Interdictions of illegal aliens and drugs increased as cameras caught more activity. The SABRE team has two National Guard members watching the cameras 24/7 and another two analyzing the footage and photos that are captured.

Some trends started emerging, according to Williams. The cartel significantly increased their scouting operations, drug smuggling routes were changed, drug mules were now being recruited from outside the local area, and drug smuggling routes turned into human smuggling routes.



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