Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) personnel operate in Yuma as part of the Phoenix Division of the agency. In addition, some DEA agents have full time jobs with the Yuma County Narcotics Task Force.
Yuma presents some unique challenges to the DEA officials who have careers in this city. Successful drug enforcement efforts to the west and east of this area have driven traffickers to target Yuma as an area of their operations. Its proximity to the border entry point of San Luis makes it a destination for drugs that are smuggled through the border crossing from Mexico. It is only a 25-mile drive on Interstate 95 to get to Yuma from San Luis.
In addition, the desert terrain south of the city provides an attractive location for drug smugglers. Yuma is used a transshipment point for drugs destined to Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles.
Drug Interdictions by DEA Agents in Yuma
Efforts by DEA agents in Yuma have led to some very high profile arrests.
- DEA officials were called in after a traffic stop in Yuma identified a U.S. citizen and two Mexican nationals transporting 40 pounds of methamphetamine. This arrest led the DEA to identify a sophisticated tunnel operating from Mexico to a non-descript building in San Luis in July 2012. The 60 foot deep $1.5 million tunnel was equipped with a ventilation system, electricity, and cars. Officials think the tunnel was used by the Sinaloa cartel to transport drugs into the U.S.
- Agents of the DEA in Yuma arrested rapper Lil Wayne and members of his entourage in 2008 for possessing multi-gram quantities of marijuana, cocaine, and ecstasy. Border Patrol agents had stopped them at a checkpoint on Interstate 8.
- In 2007, arrests in Yuma and other locations led to the seizure of over 28,000 pounds of marijuana, along with large quantities of cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin. These arrests came from the efforts of two OCDETF (Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force) investigations led by the DEA’s Special Operations Division (SOD) in Washington, DC.
- A multi-jurisdictional task force involving the DEA led to the dismantling of a large drug smuggling ring based on Yuma. As part of this operation, 50 operatives of the Arellano-Felix cartel were arrested in Yuma in 2002.
Learning How to Become a DEA Agent in Yuma
Those interested in learning how to become a DEA agent in Yuma can do so following a number of different career paths. Obtaining an academic degree is one way of becoming qualified to join the DEA. Potential applicants have options of getting a Master’s degree, an LL.B. or J.D. degree, or obtaining a Bachelor’s degree with a 2.95 GPA. The GPA requirement is waived for applicants with three years of special skills. They include having experience as an accountant, information technology specialist, engineer, in a number of languages, or as a ship or aircraft pilot.
Residents of Yuma who want to become a DEA agent should contact the Phoenix Division to determine if there are jobs available in the city. Additional requirements for applicants include being in excellent mental and physical health, along with having excellent hearing and vision.
Formal training for DEA agents takes place at the DEA and FBI Academies in Quantico, Virginia. These academies complement each other, with the DEA providing academic training and the FBI providing more practical training using firearms, driving in pursuit, and getting in excellent physical condition.
Addressing the Drug Problem in Yuma
The federal government has long recognized the importance of interrupting traffickers in Arizona and made Yuma County part of the Arizona HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Organization) created in 1990. As the destination point for multi-ton quantities of drugs, Yuma DEA agents face a number of challenges in their efforts to interrupt multi-state and international drug trafficking rings. The involvement of federal agents helps with the prosecution of drug dealers who frequently move between jurisdictions.
Marijuana – Large-scale drug trafficking operations bring sizable quantities of pot into Yuma and then distribute smaller units of it throughout the southwest, along with southern California. The abuse of pot is a serious problem in Arizona, including Yuma. Mid-level and street dealers are the primary source of pot for the residents of this city.
Methamphetamine – Multi-kilo amounts of meth are brought into Yuma from over the border with Mexico. Law enforcement officials in the HIDTA region of Arizona consider the ice form of meth to be the greatest drug threat in the area. The use and sale of this drug increases the amount of violent and property crime in Yuma.
Cocaine – The levels of cocaine trafficking have been reduced by the efforts of the DEA and other law enforcement officials, but Yuma is still an important destination for cocaine originating in South America and destined for distribution throughout the U.S.