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Despite downward trend, Arizona still sees 30% of border narcotics busts

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Despite downward trend, Arizona still sees 30% of border narcotics busts

  •  Four tons of marijuana seized by CBP and ICE agents near Douglas in November.
    CBP Four tons of marijuana seized by CBP and ICE agents near Douglas in November.

Statistics released Tuesday by the Department of Homeland Security show that drug seizures have declined 17 percent in the past year along the Arizona-Mexico border, but Arizona drug busts still account for nearly one-third of all narcotics intercepted by federal border authorities.

Overall, the amount of narcotics busted along the Southwest border has declined, but nearly a million pounds were still intercepted in the state.

In Arizona, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials seized 928,858 pounds of narcotics from October 2014 to September 2015, down from the previous year. Just over 1,120,000 pounds of drugs were intercepted by border agents in Arizona in fiscal year 2014.

This follows a trend along the southwestern border, where overall seizures were down about 9.7 percent. However, while seizures in Arizona and Texas declined, both New Mexico and California saw significant increases.

Drug busts in New Mexico increased more than 58 percent, rising from 44,028 pounds of narcotics to 69,607. However, these numbers pale in comparison to seizures made in neighboring Arizona and Texas — nearly one million pounds of drugs were seized in each state in 2015.

DHS did not break down the seizures of each type of drug intercepted by agents. The figures did not include drugs seized by the DEA, state or local authorities.

In Texas, CBP seized 914,748 pounds of drugs, down from 1,017,089 in fiscal 2014. 

Meanwhile, in California drug seizures increased more than 22 percent, rising from 183,107 to 224,215 pounds.

Nationwide, CBP seized 3.3 million pounds of narcotics, including more than 213,000 pounds of cocaine seized by CBP’s Air and Marine Operations, as part of joint flights focused on intercepting drugs smuggling through the Caribbean and along Central American trade routes.

DHS noted that CBP’s drones, including two outfitted with a special radar system known as the Vehicle and Dismount Exploitation Radar, or VADER, were credited with more than 9,300 detections of “illegal activity.”

The agency operates nine drones nationwide, including four that are flown from Ft. Huachuca, near Sierra Vista. The two VADER-equipped drones are operated from the base.

Last December, the Inspector General’s office released a report critical of the agency’s drones, saying that the program was more costly than original estimates, and contributes to only a fraction of apprehensions along the border.

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