Pubdate: Fri, 22 Sep 2000
Source: Ft. Worth Star-Telegram (TX)
Copyright: 2000 Star-Telegram, Fort Worth, Texas
Author: Chris Roberts


EL PASO, Texas -- The headquarters for a federal program that provides 
money and support in the war against drug trafficking will be moved from 
San Diego to El Paso.

The Southwest Border High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program has a 
budget of $46 million a year and covers 2,000 miles of border between the 
United States and Mexico. It focuses on specific counties in California, 
Arizona, New Mexico and Texas that have known drug-smuggling routes.

Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey, in a written statement provided to The 
Associated Press, called the Southwest border "a major drug smuggling 
corridor" and said the plan will reduce illegal drug trafficking.

One of the reasons for the move is to put the organization's headquarters 
close to other El Paso-based anti-drug groups such as the Drug Enforcement 
Agency's El Paso Intelligence Center, which tracks Mexican drug gangs.

"The other principal drug fighting entities are here in El Paso," McCaffrey 
said Thursday during an interview. "We need a coordinated and integrated 

Another reason for the move, McCaffrey said, is that Texas accounts for 
just under 900 miles of the 2,000-mile border with Mexico.

"Texas is a huge piece of that (border)," he said. "It's a huge piece of 
the drug smuggling route."

Testimony this year before a state Senate committee put total smuggler 
prosecutions along the border at 1,000 per year.

In June, Jaime Esparza, district attorney for El Paso, Hudspeth and 
Culberson counties and head of Southwest Border Prosecutors, said a 
two-year-old study found that counties bordering Mexico from Texas to 
California spent between $48.5 million and $148.6 million prosecuting 
federal drug crimes each year.

McCaffrey was expected to introduce the plan Thursday night at a meeting of 
law-enforcement officials in El Paso. On Friday, he was to tour Juarez and 
El Paso learning about anti-drug efforts.

 From the Mexican border to the streets of New York, 31 High Intensity Drug 
Trafficking Areas -- regions with serious drug problems -- have been 
selected over the last decade.

In the regions, local, state, federal and military law-enforcement agencies 
work together on various projects to oppose illegal drug use and 
distribution. After starting with a federal investment of $25 million 
shared among five regions in 1990, the program will divide more than $190 
million in 2000.

McCaffrey says his plan will streamline the Southwest operation and 
increase cooperation among agencies that include the U.S. Customs Service, 
the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Border Patrol, and state, 
county and city law-enforcement agencies.

"It's generally understood that this area is and has been a major artery 
for narcotics smuggling in the United States," said Border Patrol spokesman 
Doug Mosier. "It's a valuable, strategic idea to focus on this area as the 
headquarters for this operation."

A U.S. Customs Service official in Washington said he wasn't familiar 
enough with the plan to comment.

The Southwest Border regions is one of the five original high intensity 
drug-trafficking areas. In 1994, the organization was split into five 
groups based on historical drug-trafficking corridors, one each in 
California, Arizona and New Mexico, with Texas being divided into west and 

In his plan, McCaffrey said those groups have been operating independently 
to address "local drug trafficking nuances." However, that independence has 
resulted in "management inconsistencies that have negatively impacted . . . 
operations," he said.

So McCaffrey's plan will centralize operations of the Southwest 
high-intensity zone. Five regional executive committees will be revamped 
into state advisory boards that will answer to a single executive committee 
under the plan. The El Paso-based executive committee will develop a 
"unification" strategy and budget for the Southwest program.

McCaffrey said the plan should be finalized within two months.
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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart