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HIDTA Overview

The Arizona HIDTA region encompasses the western and southern counties of Cochise, La Paz, Maricopa, Mohave, Pima, Pinal, Santa Cruz, and Yuma and includes the entire U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona.a (See Figure 1.) The HIDTA region also contains a number of federal lands controlled by the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, and Bureau of Indian Affairs. The proximity to the U.S.-Mexico border itself, with a remote, largely underprotected border area between Arizona's ports of entry (POEs), combined with access to infrastructure such as the highways that connect major Arizona cities with major illicit drug source areas in Mexico, makes the HIDTA region an attractive area for traffickers.

Figure 1. Arizona High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area

Map showing the Arizona High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.

While 323 miles of the 376-mile Arizona-Mexico border have some type of fencing, few physical barriers exist elsewhere along the border between POEs to impede drug traffickers, particularly in the West Desert area of the U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) Tucson Sector. In addition, traffickers are able to easily conceal drug shipments among the high volume of legitimate cross-border traffic at the region's POEs, creating significant challenges for law enforcement officers. Thousands of private vehicles, commercial tractor-trailers, and pedestrians that cross the U.S.-Mexico border daily provide ideal cover for drug and bulk cash smuggling operations.

The Arizona HIDTA region's position along the U.S.-Mexico border also makes it an attractive location for other illicit operations. Drug traffickers and other criminal groups engage in activities such as firearms trafficking and alien smuggling along the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona. Alien smuggling is a growing concern to law enforcement officials in the Arizona HIDTA region. Criminal organizations smuggle aliens, some of whom are members of gangs such as Mara Salvatrucha (MS 13), into the United States. These individuals typically have extensive criminal records and pose a threat, not only to the Arizona HIDTA region, but also to communities throughout the United States.


a. The total population residing within Arizona HIDTA counties accounts for approximately 90 percent of the total Arizona population. Population numbers are based on U.S. Census annual estimates of population for counties as of July 1, 2009.

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