Landing just north of the border we meet up with a ground unit to drive some of the busiest smuggling routes. I ride with a deputy in one car and another deputy trails us in a second vehicle. “It is always smarter never to travel alone,” I’m told.
While there is a flood of drugs coming north, the Border Crime Unit often focuses its interdiction efforts on what is heading south—hard cash and truckloads of weapons. It is a two way trade, a $25 billion dollar a year business and it has to be fought in both directions.
It is day time and roads are pretty empty. “We work mostly at night,” I’m told, “and we have to vary our routine and our tactics.” It seems the bandits invest as much in keeping track of law enforcement as they do in moving their illicit loads. We pull into a small town. “I’m sure somebody has already called ahead,” says the deputy as he waves to some of the town folk. “They know when we’re coming.”
Still, the deputy adds, this is where the sheriff’s department has an advantage. “Most folks cooperate with us. Ranchers like us because we don’t cut their fences and are respectful of their property.” The deputies will often be able to talk to and work with people who are reluctant to engage with the Border Patrol. That’s why the county and the Border Patrol make a good partnership—they compliment each other. “Once we figured out how not trip over each other,” one officer told me, “it has worked out pretty well.”