TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - As more business and activity returns to Southern Arizona, we are also seeing a return of smuggling.
“Our most recent hard narcotics seizure, which was yesterday, was a little over 28 pounds of cocaine,” said Joe Curran, a Border Patrol Agent for the Tucson Sector.
Four drug trafficking attempts were recently intercepted by local border patrol agents in about as many days.
“What we have seen is an uptick in our narcotics seizures,” said Curran.
In Pinal County, the Anti-Smuggling Division says both human and drug trafficking attempts dropped when the stay-at-home order went into place.
Sheriff Mark Lamb says, according to intel, some traffickers were worried about getting the coronavirus.
“I’m sure that wasn’t their primary concern,” he said. “This definitely had to have impacted their client base.”
Sgt. Brian Messing with the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office says efforts to slow the spread of the virus also affected drug manufacturing.
“The overseas companies in overseas countries have been shipping chemicals to Mexico to make the drugs,” said Messing. “With them being shut down that’s caused a shortage in Mexico for them having the chemicals to make these drugs.”
“In Pinal County, and I think in Arizona as a whole, we saw that [smuggling activity] decline,” said Lamb. “We have started to see that start to creep back up and we are pretty much back at normal of what we used to be this time of year.”
Lamb worries smuggling may increase even more as traffickers try to make up for lost time, and potentially take advantage of the strain on law enforcement resources.
“I anticipate an influx,” he said. “[Traffickers] are going to try to bring these drugs in when they know our people are busy taking care of these riots, civil disobedience and peaceful protests.”
Even during a time marked by a pandemic and protests, Curran says Tucson Border Patrol is prepared.
“Our border patrol agents are standing at the ready to take on whatever really arises here at the southern border,” he said.
The increase in drug trafficking comes as border crossing rescues also rise.
Curran says while rescues tend to go up during the summer anyways, they’ve already made more than 800 rescues this year... compared to just over 900 all of last year.