Drug enforcements efforts in Nogales are spearheaded by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), which has a Resident Office in the city. It operates under the auspices of the Phoenix Division of the DEA. Nogales is a major port of entry between Mexico and the United States, and DEA agents in this area work closely with agents of the Border Patrol.
Mexican drug cartels are highly active in smuggling drugs across the border city of Nogales. This Arizona city is located immediately adjacent to its sister city of Nogales in Mexico. Between the Nogales border crossing and the subterranean tunnels that link the two cities, DEA careers in Nogales have involved a number of investigations leading to some busts of staggering sizes.
Drug Interdictions by DEA Agents in Nogales
- DEA special agents from Nogales and Phoenix worked with the Tempe Police to dismantle a major drug trafficking cell. Members of the Sinoloa cartel were caught with three tons of marijuana, $2.4 million in cash, thirty pounds of methamphetamine, and a Cessna airplane. This investigation was announced in July 2012.
- The DEA and its partners dismantled a cocaine trafficking organization that used multiple vehicles to transport between $25 and $33 million worth of cocaine across the Nogales port of entry during 2011 alone. Seventeen members of the organization were arrested in September 2011.
What it Takes to Become a DEA Agent in Nogales
There are several different career paths that can lead to jobs as DEA agents. Some applicants have a law enforcement background in conducting drug investigations. Other people pursue an academic route to join the DEA. Interested people can apply if they a J.D., LL.B., MS, or a Bachelor’s degree with a 2.95 GPA. This GPA requirement is waived for those with a Bachelor’s who have three years of experience involving special skills. This can include accounting, being a ship or aircraft pilot, information technology specialist, engineer, having military service, or fluency in a number of languages.
Those who are interested in learning how to become a DEA agent in Nogales should contact the Phoenix Division of the agency to find out if there are positions available in this city. Requirements to become a DEA agent include being in excellent physical and mental health. This includes having good vision and hearing.
Recruits undergo their formal training at the DEA Academy in Quantico, Virginia. This is also the site of the FBI Academy. Practical training such as becoming proficient with firearms and driving, along with physical conditioning, takes place at the FBI Academy.
Drug Tunnels in Nogales
The cities of Nogales in Arizona and in Mexico are linked by subterranean tunnels that were originally built to divert water from the summer monsoons in Arizona. These tunnels have been used for both human and drug trafficking into the U.S.
As federal authorities have cracked down on access to the tunnels to limit smuggling, members of Mexican drug cartels have built a number of new tunnels under the border in Nogales. These tunnels range from crudely dug ones to those that have been elaborately constructed with hydraulic doors and elevators.
While they can be expensive to construct, having a tunnel allows drug traffickers to move tons of drugs in a single night. DEA agents have been vigilant in identifying tunnels used to smuggle drugs and stopping these pipelines. The construction of such tunnels continues unabated, however. More than 90 tunnels have been identified between the two cities since 1995. Between 2009 and 2012, authorities discovered 22 complete tunnels that led from Mexico into Nogales.
Addressing the Drug Problem in Nogales
Nogales is a frequently used border crossing for both legitimate traffic and drug smuggling efforts. Once drugs have been brought into Nogales, they can be readily shipped to other areas using interstate highway 19.
Drug trafficking in Arizona is at such high levels that the Arizona HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area) was formed to combat this trend. Santa Cruz County has its own dedicated HIDTA task force.
Marijuana – In 2009, 42% of the pot seizures along the southwestern border took place in Arizona. Most of the pot is smuggled into Arizona along the Nogales corridor. In January 2013, federal agents seized $12 million worth of pot in one shipment alone at the Nogales border crossing. This was the largest bust in the state’s history.
Cocaine – Large amounts of cocaine enter the U.S. across the Nogales border. Vehicles and aircraft are used to transport the drugs. In addition, the tunnels underlying the two cities serve as a conduit to transport tons of cocaine into Nogales.
Prescription Drugs – The abuse of prescription drugs is a widespread problem in Arizona. Mexican pharmacies in Nogales are a significant source of these drugs. Smugglers can easily purchase drugs that require a prescription in the U.S. from across the border and then smuggle them into the country.