TUCSON – Local and state authorities are working together to address the increase of deaths on the doorstep of the southern border due to cartel violence.
Cartel members are now seeking asylum in Douglas and Naco, Arizona for what they say is a credible threat.
In the span of a week, officials say 12 cartel members have been shot and killed in Agua Prieta and Naco, Mexico.
“The violence is driven by predominantly other cartels that come up and try to take over certain areas that belong to another cartel,” said Special Agent in Charge Doug Coleman with the DEA Phoenix division. “It is all intra and inter-cartel related there are either trying to kill each other or a new cartel is trying to move into an area and take it over.”
The Arizona border is an area that is mostly controlled by the Sinaloa Cartel. Agent Coleman said that this violence is all about money.
“They have to do to make sure they can maintain those trafficking routes and maintain those ways to get the drugs into the United States and if that requires violence then it requires violence,” he said.
Agent Coleman said that the information their department receives is then shared with Mexican law enforcement and other agencies in the area.
“The reality is that is a sister city to Douglas, Arizona and some of the individuals who are involved in this do have family, they have ties,” said Cochise County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Thad Smith. “Some of them, in fact, are to the United States and some of them are in fact U.S. citizens.”
Chief Deputy Smith said that they met with Governor Doug Ducey to brief him on what was happening in the area, the efforts they are taking and what they are anticipating will occur in the future.
“There is no higher priority than the public’s safety and that is the highest priority that we have,” he said. “It is quite honestly the only priority we have.”
In keeping the public safe, Chief Deputy Smith said that local and state police departments, as well as other agencies, are meeting regularly and shifting resources down to the border near Naco and Douglas, Arizona.