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DIGGING DEEPER: Undercover unit works to stop smuggling shuttles

TUCSON – It’s an undercover unit you rarely hear about but, it’s certainly making a dent in the war on drugs.

It’s called the Interdiction Squad of the Counter Narcotics Alliance, or CNA.

The unit has taken more than $1 million worth of drugs off the streets and it’s all been off of the passengers who use the shuttles coming from Nogales.

Tucson Police Sergeant Jesse Chamberlain is the head of the Interdiction Squad.

Chamberlain and the other officers strategically position themselves to watch the shuttles coming in from Nogales, as well as the shuttles leaving the Tucson area.

The shuttles are located on S Sixth Avenue.

“We try to differentiate between the legitimate travelers and those who are traveling for illegitimate reasons,” said Chamberlain.

Back in July, police spotted a woman who was traveling to Nogales, and after observing her and the suitcase she was carrying, they asked to look into the contents of the suitcase.

The woman agreed, and police discovered $285,000 in cash inside.

It was the largest cash seizure the unit has had.

However, that’s not all police have seized on couriers heading south. They’ve also found weapons and ammunition.

In 2018, police investigated 50 cases and arrested 40 people.

Police have also seized 15 firearms, eight pounds of cocaine, 45 pounds of heroin and methamphetamine, and 30,000 fentanyl pills.

These drugs are worth $1.2 million and were destined to go out of state where the profits could easily triple.

“Those drugs are worth a lot of money and that always increases the chance of somebody let’s say try to rob those drugs,” said Chamberlain.  “And the potential of violence to occur when that happens.”

It’s a situation that could make things dangerous for legitimate passengers.

That’s another reason the Interdiction Unit makes it a point to keep an eye on the shuttle services to protect the passengers and the public.

At the end of the day, the unit feels they’ve done their job.

“Stop those drugs from getting out onto the streets,” said Chamberlain.

Keeping the drugs out of the hands of the drug dealers who eventually sell it to friends and family.



Paul Birmingham

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