Gov’s office: Strike force getting results

PHOENIX — In September, Gov. Doug Ducey rolled out his solution to criminal activity at the Arizona-Mexico border – a solution he dubbed the Arizona Border Strike Force Bureau. Using assets already in place at the Arizona Department of Public Safety, the law enforcement unit has already seized 21 pounds of heroin, the equivalent of nearly one million individual hits and more than DPS seized in all of 2014, according to governor’s office spokesman Daniel Scarpinato.

Seizures have also included 4,400 pounds of marijuana and 194 pounds of meth as well as 300 arrests, including 14 cartel members, Scarpinato said.

On the surface, the Border Strike Force appears to be making aggressive surges forward in what Ducey has identified as the source of Arizona’s widespread social issues: narcotics and the drug cartels that supply them to Arizonans and many of the addicted citizens across the United States.

Scarpinato said Arizona is facing “a rising epidemic” as law enforcement encounters more drug-related activity, including border crossings, and a greater demand on the states’ side. Because of this trend, Ducey decided it was time to act in a way he believes will be more successful than efforts made in the last decade.

And the results seen in the last five months, Scarpinato said, are just the tip of the iceberg.

“We’ve had this level of success with very limited resources,” he said. “You can only imagine the tremendous work that could be done if we gave law enforcement the resources to go out and do everything they can to protect their state and protect their citizens.”

The numbers are certainly impressive – though the DPS 2014 Annual Report seems to contradict the assertion that the strike force has already seized more heroin than DPS did in all of 2014; the report indicates 139 pounds of heroin were seized during the fiscal year 2014, though it doesn’t specify if that was only by the department or across statewide efforts – but critics of the new unit may not yet be convinced of its potential to make a lasting impact on the state.

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