I sit on the Joint Border Security Advisory Committee along with other legislators and members of the law enforcement community, like DPS Director Milstead and Cochise County Sheriff Mark Daniels. We had a meeting Dec. 12 and I want to report on the condition of the border.
In 2010, we were at the height of the illegal immigrant/drug invasion, and I was chairman of the Border Security Committee. Sen. Steve Smith was a member. We heard testimony from our Arizona citizens who lived on the border and who came to our committee to report on the destruction of private property and threats to public safety.
Senator Smith, out of frustration with the federal government for not protecting our border, ran a bill stating that Arizona would build a fence. I co-sponsored the bill and heard it in my committee. At the time, Senator Smith took ridicule from the press about this bill, but today, the fruits of that bill were reported.
A website was opened in 2010 and people from across this country donated close to $300,000 for this effort of protecting our southern border. This update is reporting to you what happened to the money and how a sheriff on the border has been more successful than the U.S. Border Patrol.
This money was given to Daniels to buy surveillance equipment to build a virtual fence and provide training for the deputies who would be doing the work on Cochise County Sheriff’s Office’s special SABER task force. This task force is only made up of seven deputies. They work closely with the Border Patrol and receive back-up from the entire sheriff’s office.
This is what is so neat. The sheriff’s office bought what is called a “Buckeye camera” that is a high-grade game trail camera with the ability to send a picture, once the camera is triggered, to the dispatch center, which then forwards it to officers’ cell phones. Within 10 minutes, officers are on their way to the location from which the picture was sent.
The cameras are not placed just along the border line, but are placed in various locations along the major drug smuggling routes.
The cameras are so successful that the cartels are scrambling to increase their own surveillance efforts and change their drug smuggling routes. They had tried to use diversion tactics like flooding the area with illegals to camouflage the drug mules going through, but again the camera pictures help sort it all out.
The cameras and law enforcement officers are forcing the cartels to move their routes further east toward New Mexico. The cartels have sent out scouts to find the cameras and shut them down. One camera took a photograph of a scout before he was able to dismantle it. He was later apprehended with the camera in his possession.
The drug/human traffic mules do not want to be picked up by SABER because the sheriff’s office has a 100 percent conviction rate of these drug smugglers. Drug traffickers picked up by U.S. Border Patrol are subsequently released per the U.S. Justice Department instructions.
Jon Ladd’s family has been ranching on the border for more than 100 years. He testified in front of my committee in 2010. Today, he reported on the success of the cameras which have been placed across his land.
Ladd has a small notebook that he has kept for the last 30 years, recording the human/drug trafficking that has come across his land. He has 52 miles of fence and, over the years, thousands of miles of fence have been cut and destroyed. He states that at least 500,000 people have come across his property since he has been keeping a record. He is seeing a huge improvement since the cameras have been in place.