The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is the primary agency that fights drug trafficking in Tucson. The agency has a Resident Office in the city under the jurisdiction of the DEA’s Phoenix Division.
Tucson’s size and proximity to the Mexican border makes it a primary staging ground for drug traffickers to ship drugs smuggled in from Mexico throughout the U.S. The drugs that are destined for Tucson frequently come into country from Nogales or from public land such as reservations and national parks.
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Drug traffickers bring multi-ton quantities of drugs into Tucson. They are then kept there in stash houses, while drug cartel managers break up the shipments into smaller units. Significant amounts of these drugs are sold in the city, while Tucson’s roads and railways make it relatively easy to disperse the drugs throughout the U.S.
Another reason why Tucson is attractive to drug traffickers is that the dealers blend into the diverse community much more easily. Also, it is far enough away from border checkpoints to prevent interference from the Border Patrol. DEA careers in Tucson involve spearheading raids on stash houses and investigating conspiracies of drug smuggling and money laundering that frequently range far beyond the confines of Tucson.
Drug Interdictions by DEA Agents in Tucson
- In July 2012, DEA agents in Tucson located 6,500 pounds of marijuana in a residential home. The drugs were destined to be shipped out of state, as part of a wide-ranging conspiracy by the Sinoloa Cartel.
- Fourteen members of a drug trafficking were arrested in Tucson in January 2012. They were part of a ten year smuggling operation that brought in drugs from Nogales and distributed them to stash houses in various cities in Arizona.
- Eight people were arrested in Tucson in August 2011 for conspiring to ship multi-hundred pound loads of marijuana to Ohio, along with money-laundering and other federal crimes. The arrests were the result of Operation Frozen Freight conducted by the DEA and the IRS. The operation had this name, because the defendants used tractor trailers masquerading as frozen food trucks to ship some of the drugs.
- As part of a DEA undercover operation in Tucson, agents seized 140 grams of cocaine located a residence in the spring of 2009. They also found guns and a bulletproof vest. As a result of this investigation, three men were sentenced to over 15 years in prison for their role as drug traffickers.
What it Takes to Become a DEA Agent in Tucson
A number of career paths can lead to becoming a DEA agent. Previous experience in drug enforcement investigations is one qualification for applicants. Obtaining a Bachelor’s degree with a 2.95 average, a J.D., LL.B, or Master’s degree is another way to become qualified to join the DEA. The GPA requirement is waived for applicants who have three or more years of special skills. These include being fluent in a number of languages, an airline or ship’s pilot, accountant, engineer, or information technology specialist.
Those who wish to learn how to become a DEA agent in Tucson should contact the Phoenix Division to see if jobs are available in the city. In particular, requirements include being in excellent mental and physical health. One component of this is having excellent vision and hearing.
Applicants who are chosen obtain their training at the DEA and FBI Academies in Quantico, Virginia. They take their coursework at the DEA Academy, while they learn to use firearms, drive in pursuit, and get in excellent physical condition at the FBI Academy.
Addressing the Drug Problem in Tucson
The scale and significance of drug smuggling and abuse in Arizona led the federal government to create the Arizona HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area) in 1990. The Tucson Financial Task Force is part of this HIDTA. This multi-agency group investigates long-term money laundering conspiracies associated with drugs.
Marijuana – Multi-ton quantities of pot are smuggled into Tucson, and the drug is widely abused in the city. Street gangs are heavily involved in with its sale. The largest street gang in Tucson is Barrio Hollywood, which works closely with the New Mexican Mafia to distribute the drug in Tucson.
Cocaine – Drug traffickers also bring multi-ton quantities of cocaine into Tucson for sale within the city and further distribution throughout the country. The violence associated with the use and sale of cocaine poses a serious threat to the safety of Tucson residents
Gang Violence Associated with Drug Trafficking in Tucson
Mexican drug trafficking organizations have been reported to be cooperating with local street gangs to distribute drugs in Tucson. There were estimated to be over 5000 gang members in Tucson in 2010, operating in 100 different gangs.
Home invasion robberies are becoming a serious issue in Tucson. While previously perpetrated by Hispanic street gangs, the Bloods and Crips have been carrying out these crimes more frequently in recent years.