Pubdate: Wed, 01 Nov 2006
Source: Alamogordo Daily News (NM)
Copyright: 2006 Alamogordo News
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Heroin)


Drug seizures by the Border Patrol were down for the fiscal year 2006
in the El Paso sector and nationwide.

Agent Patrick Berry credited the reduction to "improved enforcement"
such as an increased number of agents and the presence of National
Guard troops.

The addition of National Guard troops in a support capacity "enabled
us to first and foremost place more agents into the field," he said.

According to figures released by the agency, "Operation Jump Start,"
the placement of troops along the southern United States border,
accounted for the seizure of 49,000 pounds of drugs.

Berry said the Border Patrol received 1,920 new agents in the last
year. The El Paso Sector, which includes New Mexico, had seized close
to $151 million in illegal narcotics for the 2006 fiscal year. That is
down from slightly above $164 million seized last year. 2004 saw more
than $230 million seized.

The numbers included cocaine, marijuana and heroin. Berry did not have
numbers for methamphetamine. The seizure numbers also do not include
ports of entry, he said.

Berry said one factor leading to the lower seizure numbers is improved
infrastructure along the border, including vehicle barriers installed
by the National Guard, which prevent smugglers from hauling large
loads of drugs over remote sections of the border.

"Before, they would take a vehicle and drive it across," he

Berry said technological advances, which he referred to as "smart
border technology," have helped stem the tide of illegal drugs. Smart
technology includes sensors, cameras and unmanned aerial vehicles.

"Border Patrol is focusing on smart border technology," he said. "It
enables us to become the law enforcement agency we need to become. We
can see what's coming in and have that operational control."

Berry said regular fencing is also included in border

Urban areas, including El Paso, have been fenced off.

"Here in El Paso Sector, we do have fencing, and we utilize fencing as
a part of the infrastructure," Berry said.

He wasn't sure where the 700 miles of fencing Congress approved this
year would be placed, but added that the Border Patrol "would like to
have some say-so."

Berry said that after immigration, stemming the flow of illegal drugs
into the country and detecting, diverting and apprehending smugglers
is the Border Patrol's number one priority.

"We have to do that if we are ever going to gain operational control
of the border," he said.
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