- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The seizure of illicit narcotics bound for the United States, especially marijuana, declined last year on the Arizona-Mexico border, U.S. authorities say, attributing the drop to increased interdiction efforts by law-enforcement officers and the presence of the Minuteman volunteers.

A U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) law-enforcement bulletin, issued in January but made public yesterday, said marijuana seizure in Arizona fell by 20 percent — from 894,744 pounds in 2004 to 656,364 pounds last year. Cocaine seizure dropped from 9,511 to 7,011 pounds; heroin went from 149 to 52 pounds; and methamphetamine decreased from 2,173 to 1,913 pounds.

Similar decreases were reported in California, Texas and New Mexico, although the DEA bulletin focused on the Arizona totals.

“There appear to be several factors accounting for the decrease in drug seizures and resultant new overall illegal drug smuggling trend along the Arizona border,” the nine-page bulletin said. “During the months of April and May 2005, several high-profile operations targeting illegal immigrant smuggling operations may have impacted drug smuggling operations and the normal flow of illegal drugs across the Arizona and Mexico border.

“This multiple law enforcement agency effort was established to curtail illegal alien smuggling into the U.S., with the placement of additional law enforcement presence along the border.”

The bulletin also said that during April and May last year, a high-profile campaign was conducted on the Arizona-Mexico border by civilian volunteers known as the Minuteman Project. The bulletin said the volunteers conducted 24-hour observation and lookouts on the Arizona-Mexico border and reported smuggling activities by radio to law-enforcement agencies.

Chris Simcox, Minuteman Civil Defense Corps president, said his group’s presence proved to be a deterrent to illegal entry and drug smuggling. It said that was the organization’s goal when it first set up civilian patrols on the Arizona border in April 2005.

“Our goal was to bring the government back to the border,” Mr. Simcox said. “We sought to show the government what we think homeland security should look like. When you have an obvious presence on the border, illegal activity goes away. That’s what we have been trying to get Americans and the federal government to realize.

“It was necessary for us to bring attention to the fact that the borders are not secure.”

The DEA bulletin also credited Mexican President Vicente Fox for the decline, saying his administration sent significant resources to the border, including military units aimed at deterring Mexican nationals from crossing into the United States.

“The presence of military elements … could have resulted in the disruption in the normal flow of drugs through Sonora or redirected it to areas where the military elements were not deployed,” it said. “The focus of these operations … was to concentrate on areas known for illegal alien smuggling and staging areas in border towns.”

The bulletin also noted that U.S. authorities undertook additional law-enforcement efforts against human smuggling and that Mexican smugglers became aware of the increased interdiction measures.

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