Arizona smuggling crimes shot up in 2010


The Pinal County Sheriff’s Office has released information it says rebuts claims by Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano that the U.S.-Mexico border is more secure than ever.

Data provided by the office shows that the number of pounds of marijuana seized annually in Pinal County increased from 28,093 to 44,819 between 2007 and 2010. During the same period the yearly number of calls to the border patrol increased from 188 to 370.

“We hear the border is more secure than ever,” said Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu “We obviously know different than that, having lived here, and the enforcement statistics prove it out.”

Napolitano in a press conference in October said she believed the border was safer than ever.

She said illegal immigrant apprehensions were down, an indicator that fewer people are trying to cross the border illegally.

Homeland Security numbers back this claim, showing that the number of illegal immigrants decreased from 725,093 in 2000 to 219,318 in 2010. During the same period, the department increased seizures of currency, drugs and guns.

“The numbers that need to be going up are going up, and the numbers that need to be going down are going down, and substantially so, ” Napolitano said, indicating that in her estimation the border patrol is doing a better job keeping illegal immigrants out, while capturing more illicit contraband.

Napolitano said there are two reasons for the diverging numbers – not as many jobs in the United States and increased law enforcement along the border.

“The size of the Border Patrol has virtually doubled in the last four or five years,” Napolitano said. “With the supplemental budget that was passed recently, we’ll be adding yet another 1,000 border patrol agents. Other law enforcement presence down here has increased as well – ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement), ICE investigators, port of entry officers, canine teams at the ports. And we are continuing to support local law enforcement as a complement to federal efforts.”

Pinal County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Tim Gaffney said the number of deputies and patrol frequency in smuggling corridors have both increased since 2007.

“We have put a heavy emphasis on chasing these smugglers out of Pinal County,” Gaffney said. “I think our increased commitment to this activity has lead to additional busts.”

In terms of an actual increase in smuggling Gaffney said he thought levels have either remained constant or increased slightly.