Cochise County Sheriff Coordinates Efforts to Put Cartels on Notice

Sheriff Mark Dannels of Cochise County announced the kick-off of a coordinated, cohesive border enforcement program "from all over the state" to address the Biden administration's failure to follow existing laws at the border. His Arizona County has been overwhelmed by human trafficking, drug trafficking, and crime, all thanks to increased cartel activity and an unprecedented flow of illegal aliens.

Dannels stated that the recent injury of three of his deputies has been the last straw. The deputies were injured during a drug interdiction attempt with a smuggler, and one deputy is still hospitalized. "Enough is enough," said Dannels while putting the cartels on notice. "So if you hear me today and the cartels especially, we're coming at you. And I'll say this to you, too, for those thinking about coming to Coaches County to commit international crime? Think twice."

The President of the Sheriff's Association, Sheriff Dave Rhodes from Yavapai County, also spoke on Tuesday. The 28-year Yavapai County Sheriff's Office veteran has been instrumental in laying down the law with the cartels. Rhodes has worked with the state legislature and the Governor's office to secure "$12.3 million in funding in this year's budget cycle" to secure the border. The money was directed to the Arizona DPS and then disseminated to local law enforcement agencies and sheriffs' departments "specifically for these types of operations to deal with the ever-growing related crimes and instability" that result from an open border. The Sheriff's Association has requested to "double the funding," according to Rhodes. He says this has been a "man-made disaster," and the White House's recent request for additional border funding is "three years too late." Rhodes continued:

"The current instability of the southwest border is creating or allowing for the creation of illicit economies all over every local jurisdiction in this state and all over this nation. Frankly, when you say illicit economies, this is your human smuggling, this is your human trafficking, child sex trade. [It is] drug smuggling, gun running, money laundering, everything that you can think of is occurring, and it's starting to take root in all these different places, so we have to do something.

We have to show force, as Sheriff Dannels said; we're going to bring it back to the cartels. This place is not open for business. The state is not open for business. Our local economies are not open for business. You cannot come here and poison our children without retribution, without consequences. You cannot come here and create a sex trade without consequences. You are going to meet the full wrath of the state law enforcement."


Jeff Glover, Director of the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS), shared the impact of the open border on Arizona communities. "From 2018 to 2022 / 40,000 lives in our state have been lost to opioids, 71% of  those is due to fentanyl." According to Glover, teens are regularly recruited by cartels on social media and are "offered cash in exchange for transportation and transporting drugs and people into the state." Many parents are unaware of how their teenagers are being lured into cartel activities. 

20 year-veteran police officer Chris Hiser, now the Sierra Vista Police Chief, confirmed that deputies are being injured and are under terrible duress with the "increase in vehicle pursuits directly related to human traffickers and drug traffickers." He agreed that the only effective response is one that is proactive, "cohesive," and locally coordinated.

According to Dannels, there have been over 2500 arrested in Cochise County for border-related crimes. The Cochise County Attorney Brian McIntyre  stated:

"In the last two years, 13 people lost their lives in this county because of the nonsense that's going on here. If you're thinking about coming to Cochise County to run people or to run dope, please turn around. Please don't do it. But if you do, please call your mom because you're not going to see her anytime soon."

In the Tucson sector alone, "51,000 came across the border, not including gotaways," said Dannels. In the last eleven months, Dannels shared, "409 people were arrested for smuggling, we are pushing 400 pursuits...over 100 juveniles apprehended for smuggling in Cochise County. That doesn't include arrests that involve drugs, stolen vehicles, weapon violations, [and] assault on officers—a huge rise there. Never in my 39 years have I seen the assaults, the aggressive behavior by cartels, and those working within the cartels' scope of operations. It is scary, but I will tolerate no more." 

According to official statistics from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), there have been 373,625 land encounters at the Tuscon Sector. Total encounters for FY2023 are estimated to be 2,045,838. According to CBP stats, encounters at the Tuscon Sector are up 48.3 percent, one of only two sectors on the southwest border that has seen an increase in numbers.

Dannels says he will increase the resources dedicated to border protection. He says he has the support of 13 out of 13 sheriffs in the Sheriffs' Association. He has also garnered a commitment from Border Patrol to work toward more apprehensions.

The various law enforcement organizations will have "measurable objectives," according to Dannels. It will be a collective, coordinated approach with "deputies, troopers, federal agents, and city police officers" working alongside each other. They will have more helicopters working detail to provide better security for officers. Dannels also explained that "intel [will be] built into the operation at an enhanced level," and there will be no more "piecemeal" operations. Dannels plans to have a "designated operational plan with targeted targets." He later added that there will be "no rogue will be a zero tolerance operation" regarding smuggling.

Dannels recognizes that prosecution and convictions are keys to effective law enforcement operations. Dannels shared that "58 juveniles have been charged as adults for participating in illegal behavior" because law enforcement wants to send a clear message to teenagers considering being involved in illicit cartel activities. 

As for those crossing illegally, Dannels said it really should be as simple as "enforcing the rule of law." However, Dannels asserts illegals are being incentivized to cross the Southern border because the Biden administration has failed to follow the law at every turn. Dannels continued, "If you come across the border illegally, the law says you're immediately expelled. Instead," Dannels added, "you get to stay. So there is no incentive not to come. I am all about humanitarian efforts, but we need to protect our own people, citizens, American citizens, and those legally in our country."

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