Skip to Content

DIGGING DEEPER: Tucson ties to Operation Crystal Shield

Remaining Ad Time Ad - 00:00

TUCSON (KVOA) - When it comes to drug smuggling, Arizona is considered a major hub.

The Drug Enforcement Administration recently announced the results of Operation Crystal Shield - a six-month operation targeting Mexican trafficking organizations in the United States.

News 4 Tucson's Digging Deeper Team learned when it comes smuggling meth, all roads lead to Tucson.

Interstate 19 is one of the four corridors identified by the DEA used by Mexican cartels to smuggle drugs, especially meth.

Recently as part of Operation Crystal Shield, agents stopped a white van that was traveling on I-19. It had several hidden compartments.

Inside the agents discovered 275 pounds of methamphetamine, 10 pounds of cocaine, five pounds of heroin and two weapons.

Officials say the street value of the meth alone is estimated up to $1.3 million.

They arrested six people in connection to this load.

A major haul since the pandemic began.

According to Polo Ruiz who heads the Tucson DEA area office, Operation Crystal Shield began Feb. 20 then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

"Last year, we were on track for a record-breaking year," Ruiz said. "Unfortunately COVID happened. They closed the ports so they are looking for other alternative methods. But as you can see, we're still making it happen through our investigations."

Since February, the agents have seized 2,096 pounds of meth, which has a street value anywhere between $4.8 million to more than $10 million.

"It's an enormous amount of meth and it has had an impact on the price of meth. It has affected the local supply," said Tucson Police Captain John Leavitt. "It's definitely been a boom to public safety to see this effort."

Leavitt is the commander for the Counter Narcotics Alliance. They have been working with DEA.

He said the pandemic has had an impact on the cartels stockpiling the drugs in Mexico.

"There is no question that as the border opens up and travel increases, you'll see a deluge of drugs and we're ready for that," he said. "We're waiting for that and we're prepared."

Operation Crystal Shield made it crystal clear to the smugglers that they are not wanted here.

Nationwide, Operation Crystal Shield netted 30,000 pounds of meth. They also seized $43 million in drug money.

DEA said more Americans die of meth overdoses next to fentanyl.

Lupita Murillo

Lupita Murillo is an investigative reporter. She is part of the Digging Deeper team that uncovers important issues focusing on crime that affects the community.

Skip to content