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Arizona High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Drug Market Analysis
May 2007

Drug-Related Crime

Mexican DTOs and their affiliates are more sophisticated and significantly more violent than they were in the past. Enforcement arms of these DTOs have shot and otherwise injured law enforcement officials, rival DTO members, and gang members on both sides of the border. Drug traffickers now vigorously protect the product that they transport; they confront law enforcement directly or engage in high-speed chases to avoid arrest and interdiction. For instance, in 2006 several armed smugglers approached a National Guard station along the Arizona-Mexico border between Nogales and Lukeville in broad daylight wearing Soviet-style vests and carrying AK-47 assault rifles. No one was injured or killed during this confrontation; however, the incident illustrates the level of brazenness that Mexican DTOs employ in testing smuggling routes. Additionally, assault statistics indicate that drug smugglers have noticeably increased their level of violent assaults against USBP and other federal law enforcement officers and agents who protect the border. Although most of these assaults involve rockings, smugglers are increasingly ramming USBP vehicles, attempting to run over agents, and firing upon agents, often with automatic weapons.

Some smugglers, referred to as bajadores,5 rob other smugglers who successfully cross the border undetected, stealing their drug supplies, guns, and illegal aliens. Many bajadores reportedly commit such robberies while dressed as law enforcement officials. They obtain information regarding dates, times, and locations of smuggling events from informants working with both the smuggler and the bajadore. Once bajadores steal a shipment, the owners of the drugs usually attempt revenge, occasionally through execution-style homicides. Although most bajadores are low-level traffickers, some work for high-level Mexican DTOs in Phoenix or Tucson and are becoming increasingly violent.

End Note

5. Bajadores historically were Hispanic criminals; however, law enforcement reporting currently indicates that bajadores may or may not be Hispanic.

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