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Attorney General Eric Holder on Efforts to Combat Mexican Cartel Efforts and Grants for Local Assistance
Los Angeles, Calif. ~ Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Remarks as prepared for delivery.

Thank you, DEA Special Agent in Charge Tim Landrum for hosting us today. And thank you to all of the federal law enforcement officials from California and Arizona who took part in our discussion of the challenges we face as we confront the Mexican cartels and cross-border drug trafficking on the Southwest border.

I’m also pleased to be joined today by Ralph Partridge, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA’s San Diego office as well as our local law enforcement partners, Commander Mike McNally from the San Diego County Sheriff’s Office, Chula Vista Police Chief Richard Emerson and San Mateo County Sheriff Greg Munks.

This afternoon’s roundtable brought together officials from the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the U.S. Marshals. We talked candidly about what’s working – and what we can do better – as we fight and seek to defeat the Mexican drug cartels and the scourge of associated drug-related violence.

This task will not be easy. The Mexican cartels are sophisticated criminal enterprises with billion dollar budgets. But today’s roundtable discussion confirms my confidence that we have the tools and capacity to defeat them Also, our successful efforts in years past to fight organized crime, including tackling La Cosa Nostra, gave us valuable experience and knowledge that we can now use against the cartels.

We are intensifying our efforts to investigate, extradite, prosecute and punish the cartel leaders and their henchmen. As many of you in this room know well, the routes these organizations use to traffic their drugs, guns and cash too often include the main streets of our communities – so we have increased our law enforcement presence on the Southwest border and in Mexico.

As we’ve learned, the best way to disrupt and dismantle a criminal organization is to lock up its leaders and seize their money – so we will work with our Mexican counterparts to locate and extradite, when appropriate, cartel leadership to the United States for prosecution. Moreover, we must continue to collaborate with our counterparts in Mexico, as we endeavor to strengthen Mexico’s law enforcement capacity and institutions.

We cannot defeat the cartels without the courageous efforts of our Mexican allies. And, we will extend our efforts within federal law enforcement to coordinate our efforts and to share the intelligence our investigations develop.

Our state and local partners in law enforcement play a critical role in our efforts to confront the cartels. I would like to thank the many representatives of numerous California communities for coming here today. You, and the men and women you work with are on the front lines of the fight. They are a force-multiplier that vastly extends the potential reach of federal law enforcement, multiplying our eyes and ears.

The power of this partnership can be seen in Operation Xcellerator, a 21-month multi-jurisdiction narcotics trafficking and money laundering investigation targeting the Sinaloa Cartel. With extensive coordination between more than 200 international, federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, it resulted in more than 750 arrests and the seizure of nearly $60 million and multiple tons of illegal drugs.

And this massive operation all began with a traffic stop by the El Centro Police Department in Imperial County, California.

Time and again, we have seen the power and results of coordinated efforts.

That is why I am so pleased to announce today that the Justice Department is awarding more than $8.7 million from the American Recovery Act to help local law enforcement agencies in California fight crime and narcotics activity along the Mexican border. These funds will help our state and local partners in California build the infrastructure and hire the professionals we need to confront the cartels.

These funds will support task force efforts in Chula Vista to gather intelligence related to cross-border violence.

They will fund an automated intelligence management system in San Mateo County to track wholesale distribution from Mexican drug trafficking organizations out of the San Francisco area.

And they will create a team of uniformed officers in San Diego County to patrol the border for drug smuggling and criminal activity.

By investing these funds in our communities, we will help take the drugs and associated violence out of them.

In the coming days, we will announce additional awards – 20 in all, totaling nearly $30 million -- all focused on supporting local law enforcement agencies in California and four other states. In addition to improving public safety in communities along our southern border, these awards will help create and retain 168 jobs.

Most fundamentally, they will help to ensure that our fight against the cartels is tough and smart, and that our federal, state, and local law enforcement efforts continue to combat the threat posed by the cartels in an effective, intelligent, and coordinated manner.

I would now like to turn it over to DEA Special Agent in Charge Tim Landrum.

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