Las Cruces serves as a major transshipment point for drugs being smuggled to other points in the U.S. This is due both to the city’s proximity to the Mexican border and the highly developed highway system throughout the area. Interstate 25 connects Las Cruces with Colorado and Wyoming, while Interstate 10 traverses the country from California to the East Coast.
Drugs flow into Las Cruces from both the eastern and western parts of the country. On the West coast, drugs are smuggled from Chihuahua into Douglas and Phoenix before being shipped to Lac Cruces. In addition, the Anthony port of entry is only 17 miles from Las Cruces and receives all westbound commercial vehicle traffic from El Paso. Members of the Juarez and Sinaloa cartels smuggle drugs from the large international border community in El Paso to Las Cruces.
The area around Las Cruces poses additional unique challenges to those with jobs in the DEA’s Las Cruces Resident Office. Much of the border south of the city is rugged land that is uninhabited. This makes is a prime target for traffickers to bring in drugs from Mexico. In addition to using humans and horses to smuggle these drugs, the cartels have increasingly been using ultra-light aircraft to transport their cargo. Despite these challenges, DEA agents in Las Cruces have made a number of significant busts.
Requirements to Become a DEA Agent in Las Cruces
There are many ways to embark on a career with the DEA. Applicants can pursue higher academics and get an LL.B., J.D, or Master’s degree. A Bachelor’s degree is another option. One qualification is to have a 2.95 GPA average, while that is waived for applicants with three or more years of experience in special skills. These include accounting, engineering, information technology, fluency in a number of languages, or being a ship or airplane pilot.
Residents of Las Cruces who want to learn how to become a DEA agent in the city should contact the El Paso Division to find out if positions are available in Las Cruces. Additional requirements for applicants include having excellent mental and physical health, including excellent vision and hearing.
Recruits pursue their formal training in Quantico, Virginia—the site of the DEA and FBI Academies. Academic coursework takes place at the DEA Academy, while the FBI Academy is the site of training in such practical skills such as firearms proficiency, pursuit driving, and getting in excellent physical condition.
Drug Interdictions by DEA Agents in Las Cruces
- Seven residents of Las Cruces were indicted by a federal grand jury in December 2012 for trafficking in prescription drugs. The individuals obtained nearly 2,700 pills of oxycodone and 390 of Adderall using fraudulent prescriptions. This investigation by the DEA and the Alamogordo Department of Public Safety found these drugs were destined to be distributed throughout Dona Ana County.
- Federal indictments for trafficking in marijuana and cocaine were unsealed in September 2011. Six of the 20 individuals involved in this national conspiracy were from Las Cruces, which was an integral site in the trafficking operation. The DEA spearheaded the large multi-agency Operation Short Final that took place across the United States. This was part of the OCDETF (Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force) program.
- An international cocaine trafficking network operating in Las Cruces and El Paso was dismantled in 2003 by the efforts of DEA agents, along with FBI, Border Patrol, and state and local authorities. About 105 suspected traffickers were arrested in Las Cruces and El Paso.
Addressing the Drug Problem in Las Cruces
Despite a long history of drug trafficking through New Mexico, the situation has grown even worse in recent years. As drug interdiction efforts in Arizona have grown increasingly successful, the traffickers have increased their presence in New Mexico.
The federal government realized the severity of drug smuggling in Las Cruces and established Dona Ana County as part of the New Mexico HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area) in 1990. Drug smuggling and abuse is epidemic in this region, and New Mexico has the highest rate of illicit drug use in the country.
Methamphetamine – Law enforcement officials surveyed in 2011 consider the use and trafficking of meth to be the most serious drug threat in the New Mexico HIDTA region. Mexican traffickers bring multi-kilogram quantities of meth into Arizona and California where it can be easily shipped to Las Cruces. The Las Cruces-Dona Ana County Metro Narcotics Agency found that meth seizures nearly tripled from 2009 to 2010. Law enforcement officials find that meth trafficking and use have a serious impact on crime rates in the area.
Marijuana – Pot is both smuggled through Las Cruces and commonly abused in the area. The drug is shipped from the West Coast and smuggled into Las Cruces from across the border. It is transported by vehicles through the ports of entry and is carried across the desert region on foot. In addition, traffickers have been trying to avoid detection by smuggling pot in ultralight aircraft that easily escape detection.
Cocaine – Traffickers ship cocaine to Las Cruces from the El Paso/Juarez corridor. From there, it is sent throughout the nation. Abuse of the drug is also common in Las Cruces, and the street-level sale of the drug contributes to violence in the city.
Prescription Drugs – Prescription drug abuse has become rampant in recent years, particularly among young people. These drugs are readily available without a prescription in Juarez and are brought into Las Cruces from El Paso. In addition, traffickers have used fraudulent prescriptions to obtain the drugs in Las Cruces for distribution throughout Dona Ana County.