The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is responsible for drug trafficking and conspiracy investigations in Phoenix. This city is the hub of the DEA’s operations in Arizona and is the location of the Division headquarters for operations in the state. In addition, one of the DEA’s strategic intelligence reporting field teams operates out of Phoenix.
The proximity of Phoenix to the Mexican border makes it a major destination for multi-ton packages of drugs. The drugs are stored in safe houses and then broken into smaller parcels for shipment to the rest of the U.S. Phoenix is a national distribution hub for marijuana and methamphetamine and a regional hub for cocaine and Mexican heroin.
The DEA conducts a number of investigations in the Phoenix metropolitan area, ranging from shutting down warehouses selling synthetic drugs to terminating operations by the major Mexican cartels that operate in Arizona. The agency is focusing efforts on the Sinoloa and Juarez cartels that have been increasingly operating with local street gangs to distribute drugs in the Phoenix metropolitan area. DEA jobs in Phoenix frequently result in high level busts in the area.
Drug Interdictions by DEA Agents in Phoenix
- As a result of the DEA Operation Green Parcels, a Phoenix UPS driver was arrested for shipping at least 200 pounds of marijuana a week through the UPS system and receiving the cash for the drugs. He was found guilty in April 2013.
- In March 2013, a high ranking member of the Sinoloa cartel was indicted for distributing methamphetamine and laundering money. As a transportation coordinator, he controlled key distribution points for drugs coming in from Mexico. The investigation was led by the DEA’s OCDETF (Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force) located in Phoenix.
- Twelve members of the Sinoloa cartel were arrested in March 2012 for storing over $2 million worth of drugs in safe houses, including one in Laveen—a small town eight miles from downtown Phoenix.
What it Takes to Become a DEA Agent in Phoenix
There are a number of different ways to become qualified for careers with the DEA. One qualification is to already have law enforcement experience investigating drug trafficking. Another way is to have one of several different types of degrees—a Master’s, LL.B., or J.D. Applicants with a Bachelor’s degree are qualified if they had a 2.95 average GPA or if they have three years of experience in any one of a number of areas. These include having served in the military, being an engineer, fluency in one of a number of languages, accountant, information technology expert, or a ship or airline pilot.
Residents of Phoenix who want to learn how to become a DEA agent in the city should conduct the local Division Office to see if there are openings for agents in the city. Requirements of applicants include being in excellent physical condition with good mental health, vision, and hearing.
Recruits receive their formal training at the DEA Academy, where they have their academic studies, or at the FBI Academy. Both are located in Quantico, Virginia. DEA agents train at the FBI Academy to learn proficiency with firearms, pursuit and defensive training, and to become highly fit physically.
Addressing the Drug Problem in Phoenix
With its proximity to the Mexican border, the federal government has recognized Arizona as a key location for stopping the distribution of drugs throughout the country. In 1990, the state was designated an HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area). Phoenix is one of the key sites in Arizona for DEA intelligence efforts, particularly focusing on key players from the Mexican drug trafficking organizations.
Marijuana – Phoenix is the destination of multi-ton quantities of pot smuggled in from Mexico to be distributed across the U.S. In addition, street level gangs in Phoenix distribute large quantities locally. This includes Barrio Hollywood and sets of Bloods and Crips, particularly in south Phoenix. The problem has become more severe as rival gangs have started cooperating with each other to increase their ability to traffic pot. In 2010, authorities estimated that there were over 10,000 gang members in Phoenix.
Methamphetamine – Law enforcement experts in Arizona rank methamphetamine as the number one drug threat in the region. Large quantities of meth are smuggled into Phoenix from Mexico. In addition to being distributed to the rest of the country, the drug is used locally, leading to an increase in violent and property crime.
Cocaine – Large quantities of cocaine are smuggled to Phoenix and stored there before being distributed to the rest of the region. The use of powder and crack cocaine contributes to the level of violence in Phoenix.